School-based student police cadets (SPC) and law enforcers on Monday conducted surprise checks at shops in the neighbourhood of educational institutions in the city and seized processed tobacco products, including cigarettes and banned chewing tobacco.

The joint inspections, first of its kind in the capital, were code-named Operation Our Responsibility to Children. It resulted in the arrest of 51 traders and seizure of 150 kg of tobacco products, a bulk of it prohibitively taxed cigarettes, according to the police.

The police charged the arrested traders on the charge of violating the provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement, Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003.

The charges against them included retailing tobacco products within a radius of 91.4 m of educational institutions, selling tobacco in different forms to persons under the legal age of consuming alcohol or tobacco (18), not exhibiting sign boards stating that tobacco will not be sold to persons under the age of 18, displaying tobacco products openly, exhibiting advertisements (both direct and indirect) promoting the sale of tobacco and selling banned tobacco products. Some of the provisions of the law entail a punishment of up to 3 years of simple imprisonment.

The traders were first taken to nearby police stations and their statements were recorded.

Later, the police made them attend a class, at the City Police Commissioner’s office, to create awareness about the provisions of the law.

Subsequent to the class, they were granted bail from their respective stations.

The police said they had been planning the raids for weeks. Law enforcers used SPCs and school-based Student Protection Groups (comprising of teachers, students, local Sub Inspector of Police, a taxi or auto-rickshaw driver operating in the locality) to identify shops that violated the provisions of the COPTA.

The inspections were carried out in the vicinity of at least 45 schools in the city.

They said the seized tobacco would be marked as evidence and produced before the court.

City Police Commissioner P. Vijayan and Assistant Commissioners, P. Bijoy and K.E.Baiju coordinated the inspections.

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