In a bid to the discourage the smoking habit, the Himachal government may take the ordinance route to ban the sale of unpackaged cigarettes. Under the proposed law cigarette sellers will have to obtain a licence from the health department.
The department has sent the proposal to the state law department to seek its opinion before placing the ordinance in the cabinet. Earlier the government wanted to introduce a bill to ban the sale of loose cigarettes in the recently concluded budget session of the assembly, but due to delay from the law department it could not do so.
“We could not table the bill during the budget session, so government will shortly bring an ordinance to ban the sale of loose cigarettes. It will go a long way to reduce the smoking habit among the public, particularly young people,” health minister Kaul Singh Thakur told Hindustan Times.
After a nod from the cabinet the health safety department will frame the rules. There will be clauses for imposing heavy penalties on violators. It will be compulsory for cigarette wholesalers and retailers to obtain a permit from the department of health safety and regulation.
The state had earlier banned smoking in public and the sale of ‘gutka’ and ‘pan masala’ in the state. Going by a rough estimate, around 70% cigarette sales takes place in the form of loose cigarettes. Now it will be mandatory for both wholesalers and retailers to obtain a licence to sell cigarettes.
Himachal Pradesh is the second hill state after Sikkim to have been declared “smoke-free” in 2012. The government now intends to reduce the smoking habit even in homes. More than 2,500 panchayats in the state have complied with the provisions of the Cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA).
At present 93% compliance of the Act had been ensured by the education department followed by 91% compliance by the health department and 87% by the transport department, which indicates the state government’s initiatives to eradicate smoking and consumption of tobacco products has been fruitful.
Besides, 57 development blocks of the state have also passed resolutions of their blocks to declare the areas “smoke free”. Health department studies reveal that 2.8% of children in the country start smoking before the age of 15 years, 25.6% between 15 and 17 years, 21.5% between 18 and 19 years and 59.8% between 22 and 34 years.