In spite of a 2003 law banning the issue of sale and consumption of tobacco products, primarily cigarettes, within 100 yard radius of schools and educational institutions, the sale of such substances continues unabated around the places. Vendors are spotted near the main entrance of Government Medical Dental College and the Modi College. Hospitals and religious buildings are also not immune to the menace with tobacco products easily available.
The major reason for such easy availibity and thus consumption of harmful cigarette and tobacco products remains the inability of the authorities to implement the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COPTA), 2003.
Corroborating the non-implementation, the principal of a reputed college in the city said, “Tobacco is easily available right outside the gates of major educational institutions. We have approached the health department several times requesting for action against vendors and come out with a policy-based permanent solution. Challans are issued, but this has not been an effective deterrent to the sale of tobacco products.” The district health department seems helpless in controlling the violation in spite of directions from the state health department. Challan drives have failed to work as have the holding of special awareness camps in schools and colleges.
Assistant health officer Malkit Singh said, “We are doing were best and launched special drives and issued hefty challans to vendors found to be stationed near the educational institutions. If residents and the officials of the municipal corporation cooperate with us, we can go a long way in implementation of the law.”
“The health department had written to the MC officials seeking the removal of vends from outside school institutes, but there was no response,” he claimed.
Patiala mayor Amarinder Bajaj said the MC had launched a special drive against illegal encroachment over the past three days. “We will ensure that encroachment is removed from outside schools as well.”