Himachal bans sale of loose cigarettes to dissuade youngsters from smoking
Himachal Pradesh Government has released a notice banning sale of single cigarettes and ‘bidis’ under Section 7 (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003. A person found guilty of violating the law shall be punished under Section 20 of COTPA told the state health department.
According to the Section 20, a violator can be punished with one year imprisonment or Rs. 1,000 fine or both for first timers. If same person found guilty second time, the penalty will be Rs. 3,000 or 2 year jail or both. Food Safety Officers are given responsibility to monitor proper implementation and action against violators.
HP State Health Minister Kaul Singh Thakur claimed it as a step towards discouraging people, especially youngsters, from smoking.
The youngsters buy single cigarettes … Our objective is to dissuade them from tobacco use and smoking. In case, we face any difficulty in implementation of ban through this notification, we may come out with a separate law on this,
The idea is to make cigarette purchase difficult for youngsters who can’t afford to buy a complete pack of cigarettes or avoid buying packet for fear of being caught at home and school.
Sale, manufacture, storage and distribution of tobacco products like Gutka, Kheni and Pan Masala, and chewing tobacco products were completely banned in Himachal on October 2, 2012. Himachal has also banned cigarette smoking in public places.
However, HP government seems to have completely failed to check illegal sale of these products. According to activists and consumers of these products, now shopkeepers are charging Rs. 15 to Rs. 20 for a packet of ‘Khaini’ that was earlier sold for Rs. 5. Similarly, a packet of Gutka is sold for Rs. 5 that used to cost Rs. 1 prior to the ban. Faulty implementation of the policy is rather assisting growth of black market.
Critics are of the view that ban on the sale of loose cigarettes will also end up benefiting shopkeepers who have found an opportunity to sell it in black.
While traders in Himachal have not yet reacted to the ban, Tobacco Sellers Association in Uttar Pradesh is protesting against the ban imposed on sale of loose cigarettes by the state government. While submitting a memorandum to CM Akhilesh Yadav, Association said,
Poor people sell loose cigarette but now the government has made two years jail along with Rs 5000 as fine for the first timers and five yrs jail and Rs 10,000 fine for the second time offenders, which is very objectionable
Association also claims that this decision of UP government has hit livelihood of over 25 lakh families in the state.