Tobacco sales near schools, defying laws

City Health Law

The number of cases booked went up by 93 percent over the previous year.

Shops near educational institutions in Bangalore continue to sell cigarettes and other tobacco products, flouting the law. Kumaraswamy, a vendor who sells tobacco products near Vinayaka English School at Nagarathpete, said, “I have been selling cigarettes and tobacco products here for a while and no one has informed me of the law violation.”

Section 6 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply, and Distribution) Act, (COTPA), prohibits the sale of cigarettes or any other tobacco product to any person under 18 years of age and within 100 yards of any educational institution.

Dr. Sridevi, State Consultant of the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP), said, “Often vendors in petty shops sell cigarettes and other tobacco items alongside tea and stationeries to draw in more customers, thereby increasing their earnings.”

She added that most tobacco vendors strategically position themselves near schools and colleges, with teenagers being their primary target due to their higher tendency to get addicted. “Many schools come with complaints to us with this regard,” mentioned Sridevi.

The number of cases filed under Section 6 of COTPA has seen a significant surge. According to data by the City Crime Records Bureau (CCRB), till September 2023, 274 cases were filed under this section compared to 19 cases in 2022 and 43 in 2021.

“Effective enforcement has led to the increase in the number of cases booked under Section 6 of COTPA,” said Srinivas, Assistant Sub-Inspector at City Crime Records Bureau. Frequent drives are conducted by the police along with the health department and Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to monitor the sale of tobacco products in close proximity to educational institutions.

Dr. Sridevi further pointed out that there is a significant number of repeated offenders in such cases, primarily due to the low fine amount and the absence of provisions to revoke their licenses.

Jacob who works at Christ University said, “There are some shops that sell tobacco products near the college, but since we are not sure of whether they are within 100 yards limit or not, we have not registered a complained.”

Dr. Sridevi, said, “The implementation of vendor licensing can be effective in reducing the number of shops selling tobacco products near educational institutions, as individuals applying for such license will need to prove that their shop is not situated within 100 yards of any educational institutions.”

Kumar, an official from BBMP, said, “The final draft of vendor licensing had some corrections and the matter is under the consideration of the state.”

“It took us years to exert pressure on the government to introduce the vendor licensing bill, but now they are delaying the release and enforcement of the rules,” said S J Chander, Convener of Consortium For Tobacco Free Karnataka (CFTFK).

Gaviranga, owner of a petty shop said that he was not aware of the license. Another tobacco vendor near Bangalore City University agreed to the same.

According to a report by Institute of Public Health, Bangalore, in Karnataka, about one in three men and one in ten women use tobacco amounting to about 1.2 crore tobacco users in the state.

Peer pressure, inability to differentiate their actual lifestyle and personality from those portrayed in films, and for social conformity, teenagers and students resort to the use of tobacco in its various forms like cigarettes, gutka, etc. said psycho-oncologist, A Rajeshwari.

“I started smoking casually with my friends from a shop near my college. There are many shops in proximity to the college and the easy availability of cigarettes made it a daily habit,” said Rohit, a college student.

Rajeshwari added, “The psychoactive drug Nicotine in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are responsible for making it an addiction among teenagers, children, and adults.”

A report on the correlates of cigarette smoking among adolescents in India, mentions that one in ten adolescents aged between 13 and 15 years in India have  smoked cigarettes.

Mr. Chander added, “Students must be made aware of the ill effects caused by tobacco consumption as well as how they are being manipulated towards using them.”