A month after its enforcement in Himachal Pradesh, the ban on sale of loose cigarettes has fallen flat due to shortage of staff and lack of awareness.
Section 7 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA) mandates a health warning on tobacco products. As loose cigarettes and bidis do not contain a warning, their sale is deemed to be a violation of the Act.
However, with the state directorate of food and health safety facing a shortage of food inspectors, the sale of loose cigarettes is continuing unabated not only in rural areas, but even in urban parts of the state, including Shimla. Worse, there has been no sensitisation campaign to make retailers aware of the ban.
A health official, on the condition of anonymity, said there were several assignments lined up that were weighing down the already scarce staff. “We had to extend the registration deadline of food business operators in the state as all operators could not be registered,” he added.
The sale of loose cigarettes was banned in Himachal Pradesh with an aim of discouraging people, especially the youth, from smoking.
“We have been working towards creating a smoke-free society and banning sale of single cigarettes was a good decision. But enforcing such a ban is impossible without adequate manpower,” health activist Ramesh Badrel said.
Director health safety Rameshwar Sharma said the government had notified the ban and food safety officers could challan the violators who would be punished as per Section 20 of the COTPA. “It’s just the beginning, we will soon see positive results,” Sharma claimed.
Himachal was already declared a smoke-free state in July 2012, when smoking in public places was banned.