Civic body cracks whip on illegal tobacco kiosks

The Aluva Municipality has begun cracking the whip on makeshift roadside kiosks and pan shops found selling banned tobacco products.

The removal of six such kiosks between the Aluva railway station and Bank Junction last week has been cited as just the beginning of a sustained drive, which was triggered following police action against a few vendors on the charge of selling ganja in the guise of tobacco products.

“We will continue action against illegal kiosks, which are run without valid licences. Just one of them was among the nine street vendors who were issued identity cards by the municipality, though even that was not meant for sale of tobacco products. Any such illegal kiosks will be immediately removed,” said N.P. Simon, chairman, health standing committee, Aluva Municipality.

The police said organised networks were behind the supply of banned tobacco products in migrant-centric places like Aluva. “While such products are banned, it was not followed up with supporting legislation with adequate penal provisions. It entails a meagre fine of ₹200 under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act. Even the penalty for repeated offences is not a proper deterrent as manifested in the fact that we often catch the same set of offenders,” said a senior police officer in Aluva.

The seizure and destruction of bulk volumes of illegal tobacco products is the only feasible action. For instance, a packet of banned chewing tobacco procured from Tamil Nadu at as little as ₹10 is sold here at ₹100. Thus a vendor who is fined ₹200 for an offence will make it up with the sale of a mere two packets,” the officer added.

“The only other option is to charge the accused under Section 77 of the Juvenile Justice Act that entails imprisonment. But that often falls apart in the court for want of conclusive evidence and absence of complainants,” said the officer. Bigger fine and more stringent penal measures, including imprisonment, remain the only way to check the spread of banned tobacco products, he added.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 5:43:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/civic-body-cracks-whip-on-illegal-tobacco-kiosks/article33975109.ece

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