Karnataka

Report identifies ‘glaring gaps’ in tobacco control laws

Prominent display of ads of tobacco products in stores makes tobacco control laws ineffective, says report.  

Permission for smoking in designated areas of restaurants, hotels and airports and display of advertisements of tobacco products in stores and kiosks have been identified as “glaring gaps” in the existing tobacco control laws in the country in a report by National Law School of India University (NLSIU).

Even though smoking in public places and advertising of tobacco products are banned under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA) 2003, the permission for smoking in designated areas of restaurants and airport and the prominent display of advertisements of tobacco products in stores and kiosks make the existing tobacco control laws “ineffective for regulating tobacco consumption and exposure to second-hand smoke in India,” said the report released by NLSIU’s Chair on Consumer Law and Practice on Wednesday.

The report titled “Tobacco Control Law in India – Origins and Proposed Reforms” also proposes reforms that includes doing away with the allowance for smoking in designated areas to prevent “200,000 deaths, resulting from second-hand smoke” and prohibiting point-of-sale advertising and display of tobacco products, “which entice consumers.”

The report recommends an increase in the minimum age of person to whom a tobacco product can be sold from the existing 18 to 21 years. In another significant recommendation, the report has sought a prohibition on the sale of single stick cigarettes and other loose tobacco products. “As this increases accessibility and affordability of tobacco products for minors, this must be prohibited,” the report said.

The report, however, has claimed that plain packaging of tobacco products had proven to reduce tobacco consumption. “While India does have strict requirements for pictorial warnings on tobacco packages, measures such as plain packaging should be adopted as they have proven to reduce tobacco consumption.”

Also, the report has found the existing penalties under COTPA 2003 to be insufficient. Hence, it has made out a case for enhancing the penalties.

The report, apart from claiming that emission yields displayed on cigarette packets often give a misleading impression that cigarette with low emission is less harmful, also sought restrictions on the use of sugar, sweeteners and other ingredients to add colour and flavour to the product. “In addition to making tobacco products more appealing, they also reduce the irritating character of tobacco smoke, which encourages use by minors. Therefore, this must be restricted,” the report said. India has the second largest number of tobacco users – 286 million or 28.6 per cent of all adults in the country. “Of these, at least 1.2 million die every year from tobacco-related diseases,” the report claimed before adding that nearly 27% of all cancers in India are due to tobacco-usage.

Though COTPA 2003 was intended as a comprehensive law on tobacco control, the report pointed out that it was adopted 15 years ago, before the coming into force of WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 2:07:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/report-identifies-glaring-gaps-in-tobacco-control-laws/article33179531.ece

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