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Tobacco control: Voluntary groups seek focus on health by civic bodies

File photo for representation only.   | Photo Credit: M.A. Sriram

Voluntary groups working for tobacco control in Rajasthan have sought a renewed focus on public health by the civic bodies through a licensing mechanism for retail sellers. Activists said this would help generate lot of revenue for urban local bodies, which may be utilised for development works.

A day after the polling in the first phase for the municipal corporation elections in three cities, the voluntary groups said the newly elected councillors should take measures for improving health with a special focus on tobacco control. This will be in line with the objectives of the “Nirogi Rajasthan” campaign launched for taking care of the elderly people, women and children and spreading awareness about diseases.

Though the State government had authorised municipal bodies in 2018 to regulate the sale of tobacco products, the vendors violating the rules pay a petty fine and go back to selling them. Activists have been pressing for enforcement of a vendor licensing system with the framing of rules under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003.

Jayesh Joshi, secretary of the Banswara-based Vaagdhara group, said here since no civic body had taken any concrete action, the Department of Local Bodies had recently written a letter asking them to execute the 2018 order and report on the progress. “The municipal councillors should give priority to regulation of tobacco sales, as an estimated 2.50 lakh vendors can generate a revenue between ₹50 crore and ₹100 crore,” he said.

Mr. Joshi said the unaccounted sale of tobacco products worth lakhs of rupees through unauthorised vendors was causing a heavy revenue loss to the exchequer. The vendor licensing would limit tobacco consumption, which would improve the health index of society and protect the youth and children against the ill-effects of tobacco-generated diseases.

The activists also felt that a convergence among the municipal bodies, the police and the Health department would be required for an effective implementation of vendor licensing and enforcement of COTPA. The revenue generated may be used for development of the respective wards of councillors.

Indian Asthma Care Society secretary Dharamveer Katewa said a new mechanism to authorise retail outlets would help in mapping the vendors similar to those selling liquor. This would help the authorities to enforce the tobacco control laws effectively, he said.

Hadoti Pan Merchants’ Association president Mahesh Kumar Modi said the State government should authorise betel leaf merchants to sell tobacco products, as this would keep women and children away from buying them. Authorisation of vendors will also build a sense of security and enable them to get financial assistance from the government-recognised institutions.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had launched a comprehensive de-addiction campaign with the focus on the youth vulnerable to substance abuse earlier this year. As part of its steps to discourage the youth from addiction, the State government had banned e-cigarettes on May 30, a day before the World No Tobacco Day, in 2019.

The spitting of betel leaf and chewable tobacco and non-tobacco products and sputum in public places and institutions was also banned under the Rajasthan Epidemic Diseases Act, 1957, during the COVID-19 lockdown in April this year.

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2020 5:28:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/tobacco-control-voluntary-groups-seek-focus-on-health-by-civic-bodies/article32992466.ece

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