The ban on advertisement of cigarettes and other tobacco products continues to be flouted in the state, especially in rural areas.
Hoardings and billboards promoting tobacco products dot several rural areas in Himachal Pradesh, but the state government continues to turn a blind eye towards these violations.
A study, conducted by Himachal Pradesh Voluntary Health Association (HPVHA) from August to November 2013 and released in February 2014, has revealed that the violations are the most visible in Kangra and Solan; it gave a violate rate of 100% to both the districts.
The study also revealed that the violation rate was 55% in Shimla. In Una, Sirmaur and Hamirpur districts, the violations were 88%, 91% and 85%. In Chamba, the violation rate was 76%, 52% in Mandi and 72% in Kullu. The least number of violations were in the tribal district of Kinnaur, where the rate was 27%; in Lahaul and Spiti, it was 68.29%.
HPVHA official Lalit Sharma said most tobacco retailers were not aware of any such law that prohibited advertisement of these products. He said that in Kangra, some retailers were of the view that cigarette companies were sponsoring the board and the banner of their shops, then how could they refuse to display these boards.
Overall in Himachal, there were 76% “tobacco advertising promotion and sponsorship” (TAPS) violations. Of these, 54% were “product showcase type” violations. Sharma said that at many places, tobacco products were showcased in such a manner that they appeared more like advertisements.
He said in 5% cases, there were promotional gifts as well. Shimla chief medical officer (CMO) Dalip Kanwar said they had formed teams at the state, district and block level to keep a check on such violations. “There have been some raids and challans have been issued, but they have not been a deterrent,” he said, adding that a team had raided the Old Bus Stand in Shimla and penalised some retailers.
“To ensure the implementation of COTPA, we will form stronger teams,” he said. “The study would be used for taking action against the violators,” he added.
The BAN says
Under Section 5 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, direct and indirect advertisement of tobacco products is prohibited.