Why is my school not tobacco free? When the police themselves consume gutkha, what action can be taken against them? Why is gutkha still being sold outside my school? Why are police not aware of the laws related to gutkha ban?
Questions such as these were asked by more than 200 class 8 and class 9 municipal school children from across the city to law enforcers, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), and police.
The workshop titled Bal Parishad, was organised by Salaam Mumbai, a non-governmental organisation working with children against tobacco consumption in the city. State FDA commissioner Mahesh Zagade, police inspector AK Pathare, Sherin Lokhande Deputy Commissioner of labour department, Mumbai, among others, attended the workshop.
When children asked why cigarettes are not banned yet, Zagade said, “You should think of what is good and bad for you and avoid all things bad.
"The law will come later. We are first concentrating on gutkha because most Indians consume tobacco in the form of gutkha.”
The children said the amount of fine imposed for chewing or smoking tobacco in public should be increased. They also said that police remained ignorant Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COPTA) which prohibits the sale of tobacco within 100 metres of schools.
On the issue of police officers consuming gutkha, Zagade said, “If any officer does not implement the law, the officer becomes a burden on the society. You children should come forward and protest against these officers,” Zagade told the students to be inspired by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani student who was attacked by the Taliban who called for a ban on girls’ education.
Zagade said that they would focus on other forms of tobacco such as khaini, masheri after the apex court clears the notification that bans gutkha and pan masala.
"When a school girl pointed out that the ban on gutkha and pan masala was only for one year, Zagade said they had written to the central government for a permanent ban on the substances which will definitely come into effect next year.