Sale of loose cigarettes may soon be banned and the minimum age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products could be increased from 18 to 21 with the health ministry accepting the recommendations of an expert panel on tobacco use and abuse.
The panel has also suggested increasing the penalty for violations under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003. It has proposed increasing the fine for smoking in public from Rs. 200 now to Rs. 20,000. It has also recommended making such offences cognizable.
“The (health) ministry has accepted the recommendations and a draft note for Cabinet has been circulated for consultation,” health minister JP Nadda told Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.The tough tobacco policies will need a nod from the Cabinet and the Parliament before they can be implemented.
Nearly 70% of all cigarettes sales in India are in the form of loose cigarettes with most smokers refusing to spend roughly Rs. 190-Rs. 200 for a pack of 20.
According to data from market research firm Euromonitor Inernational, India smoked 102.1 billion sticks of cigarettes in 2012.
Stocks of all tobacco companies, including ITC, India’s biggest cigarette maker, fell sharply after the news broke.
According to the WHO, tobacco kills nearly half of its users, killing nearly six million people -- one death every six seconds -- globally every year.Tobacco-related deaths from cancer, heart and lung disease is expected to top eight million annually by 2030 with 1.5 million deaths in India alone.