Despite a ban on sale of loose cigarettes and other tobacco products, it continues to be bought and sold by vendors in the tricity for want of serious implementation of the ban.
The ban was introduced under Section 7 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA)-2003 in Punjab on January 6, in Chandigarh on May 27 and Haryana on April 15.
INSTRUCTIONS FAIL TO BRING DESIRED RESULTS
As the ban on sale of loose tobacco is in its preliminary stage all three cities are grappling with proper implementation. However, people are fined `200 repeatedly and left. The primary reason for the ban was the absence of a specified warning, including a pictorial warning, which is not present on loose cigarettes or tobacco products. The ban on the sale of loose cigarettes and other tobacco products completed six months this week in SAS Nagar, while an HT investigation showed that loose cigarettes and other tobacco products were being sold unabated by roadside vendors.
About 200 metre from SAS Nagar civil hospital and adjacent to the walls of the Max Super Specialty Hospital in Phase 6, where the civil surgeons office is located, loose cigarettes were being sold. Another vendor at Phase 1 market, SAS Nagar, on the Barrier Road continued to sell cigarettes after repeated challans, implying that fines aren’t proving to be a deterrent against the violation. “I am aware of the Act and have been fined 13-14 times. I don’t have a choice because if I won’t, someone else will,” he said. His shop is in the vicinity of the deputy commissioner (DC) of the district.
“The punishment is supposed to be in the form of a court challan. Bribes must have been taken, but I have recieved no complaint from anyone to date. Rather than harassing them, our intention is to create awareness through fines.”
Locals in the state face no problem buying cigarettes from roadside vendors. Geet Sahni, a resident of Phase 7 SAS Nagar, said, “Loose cigerattes are found in a number of shops in Phase 7 and 10. I regularly buy cigarettes from here.”
State programme officer, Tobacco Control Cell, Punjab, Rakesh Gupta said the Act was still in its awareness and learning stage. He said, “Of 22 districts in Punjab, only four districts have issued court challans. “About 30 court challans have been issued in Hoshiarpur, Faridkot, Patiala and Jalandhar under Section 7 of the COTPA.”
When asked what was being done to generate awareness, Gupta said, “The DCs and civil surgeons have held meetings with wholesalers of tobacco products. Officials of the state tobacco control cell have also attended some of the meetings. Volunteers of NGOs have been authorised to issue awareness notices to the violators and send notices to the government departments concerend. We get regular feedback and have also acted upon on that basis.”
The problem regarding the Act is lack of awareness, says president of a local NGO Generation Saviour Association (GSA), Opinder Preet Kaur.
“We have conducted a number of workshops to create awareness, however, it is not enough. The retailers are most often not aware of the Act itself,” said Kaur.