Sale of loose cigarettes may be stopped

Sale of loose cigarettes may be stopped

The Union Health Ministry has accepted the recommendations of an expert panel, appointed by former health minister Harsh Vardhan, that has proposed banning the sale of loose or single sticks of cigarettes as an anti-tobacco measure to improve public health.

“The Health Ministry has accepted the recommendations of the committee, and a draft note for the Cabinet has been circulated for inter-ministerial consultation,” Union Health Minister J P Nadda informed the Rajya Sabha in a written response.

The sale of loose cigarettes is a public health concern as it points to easy availability of dangerous tobacco products.

Other proposals by the panel include increasing the minimum legal age for smoking from 18 to 25 years, and imposing a penalty of Rs 20,000 for smoking in public.

Panel's chairman, retired bureaucrat Ramesh Chandra, however, said the government would have to take a practical view on the steps that are implementable. Stiff penal measures were proposed for the violation of some of the other provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, as well as making such offences cognisable.

According to the 2014 International Tobacco Control project, there are 27.5 crore smokers in India. But the anti-tobacco law has failed to make an impact as the penalty is a modest Rs 200 fine.

More than 10 lakh people are killed by tobacco each year, and the toll can rise to 15 lakh by 2020 if people are not persuaded to kick the butt.

A recent report prepared by the Public Health Foundation of India and the Indian Institute of Technology-Jodhpur says the economic loss due to tobacco is six times more than the excise revenue the Centre earns and 12 per cent higher than the combined state and Central government expenditure on healthcare in 2011.

Four ailments—heart diseases, cancer, tuberculosis and respiratory disorders—are blamed on tobacco. The economic loss is due to premature deaths or disability of people who fall prey in their productive years.

The cost of premature mortality is the highest in the productive age group of 40-44 for both men (Rs 20,300 crore) and women (Rs 1,000 crore).

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