The legal ban on the sale of tobacco to minors has not prevented it. Minors continue to buy tobacco.
Ludhiana: The hands that should be holding toys, books and pencils are seen holding boxes with a cancer warning. There are several small tobacco stalls in the city where minors are not only sold cigarettes and other tobacco products, but they also sell them.
Raja, a 16-year-old boy, who worked as a manual scavenger near Jamalpur is addicted to smoking. “I don’t think I would be able to work in that foul smell if I don’t smoke and distract myself,” he said.
According to the recent amendment made in Section 6 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA), Nobody should sell cigarettes or any tobacco products to anyone who is under 21 years of age.
Vishal, owner of a pan store in Dugri said, “I do get two to three children asking for bidis and cigarettes every second day. I am well aware of the law, therefore; I avoid selling any tobacco products to them. But there have been instances where because of their deceiving looks, I didn’t pay attention.”
Saurav, a volunteer at Divine School said, “We have been working for the welfare of children for the past six years. We come across several minors who smoke and are even addicted to drugs. We just try to put them on a better track by educating them.”
Volunteers have spotted children in their early teens smoking and consuming tobacco, despite the regulations and ban.
“I believe that education plays a crucial role in forming the society. Parents of these underprivileged children refrain from sending them to schools because that would affect their income. These children are not given a choice of work, they just do whatever brings money home,” he added
Saurav said that he has witnessed instances where these shops have posters saying the sale of tobacco to minors is a punishable offence, yet the same shopkeepers hand over packets to children.
Javed Ali, an 18-year-old who runs a tobacco stall said, “I hail from Nepal and I have been selling these things since last year. I am uneducated but I do know that smoking and consuming tobacco is not good for health. Therefore, I just sell them to run the household.”
“I was recently fined by the police for selling loose cigarettes and since then, I decided to change the business. Children of the labour workers from the construction site here, often come to buy bidis and gutka. I never ask their age, assuming they take it for their father,” Ali added.
Shivani Singh, a child psychologist said, “Just enforcing the law and making regulations won’t work unless there’s a strict check being kept on these shops and stalls. I know the police does take action but that’s a rare case. Somebody needs to be in charge of ensuring that this practice discontinues.”