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Tobacco ads: action planned against law violation

Staff Reporter
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Clear message:Children participating in an anti-tobacco poster contest in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday.— Photo: S. Mahinsha
Clear message:Children participating in an anti-tobacco poster contest in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday.— Photo: S. Mahinsha

The World Health Organisation has selected ‘Ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship’ as this year’s theme for World No Tobacco Day. The district health administration has taken a cue from this and will initiate steps to strengthen a law that is flouted largely because of the lack of awareness regarding its provisions. The law in question is the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003, which is lauded by health experts as a thorough one that has the potential to make a difference.

District Medical Officer R. Renuka told The Hindu that starting Friday until June 15, squads led by a programme officer would visit vendors and shop owners alerting them of what the law entailed. Notice would be issued to those displaying advertisements in clear violation of the law.

The government has directed municipalities and panchayats to carry out awareness drives. Rallies and art competitions will be held on Friday, the World No Tobacco Day. Section 5 of the Act prohibits all forms of promotion, and it provides clear instructions regarding advertisements at the point of sale of tobacco products.

The exact dimensions of the size of the board used for advertisement, the font size of the warnings, and the need to convey the warnings in the local language have been specified in the Act. Moreover, the brand pack shot, the brand name or any other promotional message or image should not be displayed. It should only list the type of tobacco products available. The rule also states that the board shall not be backlit or illuminated.

R. Jayakrishnan, who coordinates the activities of the Tobacco Cessation Clinic at the Regional Cancer Centre, said a concerted effort to realise these specifications could effectively steer away a new generation of nicotine addicts. The City Corporation had also been instructed by the district administration to step up efforts, but officials say there are limits to how effectively they can crack down on shops.

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