Ban goes up in smoke in Punjab as vendors sell loose cigarettes
Contrary to the claims of the Punjab government to have become the first state in the country to impose a ban on the sale of loose cigarettes, a large number of vends/shops are violating the government orders.
The health and family welfare department had notified the ban on January 5, saying the sale of loose cigarettes and loose tobacco violated Section 7 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2005, which says no tobacco product could be sold without pictorial warnings about its health consequences. However, there has been no implementation so far, as a large number of cigarette/ tobacco products vends and shops sell open cigarettes.
In wake of World No Tobacco Day on May 31, HT carried out a reality check in Ludhiana on Saturday and came across several vends in the city which are violating the rules.
Samar, trainee at a local bank, says, “Generally, I buy a pack of cigarettes but there are days when the pocket doesn’t allow, thus buying a cigarette or two is the best option.” Chetna, a PG student, says, “Society has yet to come to terms with girl/woman smokers. So, it is easy and safe to buy loose cigarettes as and when required, especially when they are available.”
DEPT FAILS TO PUBLICISE NOTIFICATION
Also, the department of health and family welfare has failed to publicise the notification as all seven vends visited by HT on Pakhowal Road, Dugri-Dhandra Road, near Shaheed Sukhdev Thapar Inter-State Bus Terminal, Civil Lines, Samrala Bypass, BRS Nagar and Hambran Road denied having knowledge of the ban on the sale of loose cigarettes.
Similarly, the flavoured tobacco that was banned in Punjab in November 2014, too, is being sold at a large number of vends and shops. With Ludhiana having a large number of migrant labourers, even tea vendors in Industrial Area, Focal Point and other areas sell flavoured tobacco sachets.
In November 2014, then health secretary Hussan Lal had asked police authorities to launch a statewide ban and enforce Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), saying, “Punjab has to emerge as a smoke-free state in the next three months.”
Requesting anonymity, a senior doctor termed the “halfhearted approach” of the department staff as one of the reasons behind the poor implementation of the ban.
Dr Pradeep Sharma, district dental health officer, Ludhiana, referring to the problem, said, “Sale of open cigarettes has more to do with economics as even a daily wager with Rs 10 can afford to buy a cigarette or two even if not the whole pack and doesn’t mind paying additional two rupees, which in turn is profitable for the vendor also.”
Dr Rakesh Gupta, state programme officer for tobacco control, said the health department had been issuing court challans, which would be a deterrent in the coming months. “For complaints, we now have an android app, named tobacco monitor, wherein people can lodge the complaints pertaining to violators,” Dr Gupta said. Also, the complaints can be given online and through the deputy commissioners and civil surgeons.
Health and family welfare director Dr Jatinder Kaur said, “I will immediately ask the civil surgeons to look into the matter and will also ask the state programme officer, tobacco control cell, to ensure that the ban is implemented without any gaps.”