Guwahati: To prevent children and students from getting hooked to tobacco at an early age, expects recommended to increase the legal age for sale of tobacco products to 21 years.
They also demanded a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertisement and promotion and ban on single sticks of cigarettes/bidis etc.
Chairman of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, global and local experts came together for a discussion on “Strengthening Legal Framework for Protecting Youth from Tobacco,” organized by the National Law School of India University on Thursday.
All the experts agreed that increasing legal age of sale of tobacco products to 21 years, adopting a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertisement and promotion, and banning the sale of single sticks of cigarettes and bidis would go a long way to prevent children and youth from initiating tobacco use at an early age.
The panelist discussed the lacunae in the cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution (COPTA) Act, 2003 that are preventing effective implementation to reduce youth tobacco consumption.
The Act was introduced in 2003 to regulate advertising, sale and availability of most forms of tobacco products in India.
Moreover, the act prohibits the advertisement of cigarettes and other tobacco products but does not regulate their advertisement at point of sale.
“Tobacco companies have been exploiting loopholes in the law to target impressionable minds of children and youth through their marketing tactics. It is critical to strengthen the law by removing all exemptions allowing point of sale advertisements and sale of single cigarettes/bidis to prevent them from endangering the lives of our young generation,” said Ashim Sanyal, Chief Operating Officer, consumer Voic, New Delhi.
Advocate Ajoy Hazarika, Secretary, Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, Assam added “The Global Youth Tobacco Survey, Govt of India indicates that nearly one-fifth of the students aged 13-15 used any form of the tobacco product (smoking, smokeless, and any other form) in their life in India. It’s critical to make sure we strengthen our laws and penalty provisions to deter tobacco companies from selling and advertising of their addictive products to our children and youth”
Countries are increasingly recognizing that almost all those who become long-term tobacco users commence tobacco use while they are adolescents. Pre- and post-implementation data shows increasing the tobacco age to 21 will help to prevent young people from ever starting to smoke and to reduce the deaths, disease and health care costs caused by tobacco use. At least 14 countries (Ethiopia, Guam, Honduras, Japan, Kuwait, Mongolia, Palau, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Uganda, and USA) have now increased that minimum age, to 21 years for buying tobacco products. At least 86 countries have banned sale of single-stick cigarettes to control their easy accessibility and affordability to youth.
India has the second-largest number (268 million) tobacco users in the world and of these 13 lakhs die every year from tobacco-related diseases. 10 lakh deaths are due to smoking, with over 200,000 due to secondhand smoke exposure, and over 35,000 are due to smokeless tobacco use.