Will ban on loose cigarettes help reduce smoking?

Some say yes, others point out it is more likely to make smokers just pick up the whole packet

The union government is mulling amending the ‘Cigarette and Other Tobacco Act’ in order to strengthen it and incline it more with the guidelines of ‘WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’. In accordance with this, they now plan to ban the sale of loose cigarettes.

In a country where existing bans like smoking in public places and
selling of tobacco and tobacco products in and around educational institutions are still not implemented properly, how well will this new rule work? Metrolife finds out.

Dr Prabhat Chand, professor of psychiatry and in-charge of the Centre for Addiction Medicine (CAM), NIMHANS, says that it is a good initiative as the ban is likely to decrease young users’ accessibility to cigarettes.

“Habit or addiction generates much later, people first experiment, Youngsters try cigarettes after being influenced by their peers. Upon continued use, those who are vulnerable get hooked on to smoking. Research has shown that an increase in taxation and cost lead to decreased tobacco use,” he says, adding that such measures will affect the young users the most, thus curtailing the possibility of them getting addicted.

Prabhat also credits the Tobacco Control Cell of the Department of Health, Government of Karnataka, for taking progressive steps which have brought down tobacco usage in the state.

“If the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 1 (GATS1, 2009-10) and GATS 2 (2016-17) are compared, there is a significant decrease (11.9 per cent to 8.8 per cent) in Karnataka. One of the reasons is that each district now has a tobacco cessation service facility. The staff is trained and tele-mentored by Tobacco Cessation Centre of NIMHANS,” he explains.

However, not everyone is in favour of the move. One of them is Neha Cadabam, consultant psychologist and executive director, Cadabams Hospitals.

She says, “The more people have something, the more they will consume it. For example, if someone wants to cut down on smoking, they would buy only one stick as their ‘quota for the day’. But if you have to buy an entire packet, then you end up smoking more. I am not sure as to how this is going to help.”

Sindhu Menon, a freelance writer, concurs with this statement. “As someone who smokes, I will not stop buying cigarettes just because it’s not available loose. I will rather buy the whole packet. And because I have a full pack in hand, I know that I can smoke whenever I want. There will be no control, unlike when I just buy one for a couple of hours or a day.” The cost factor will not deter smokers, especially those who can afford a cigarette stick or two daily, she points out.

What should be done?

Accessibility should be checked. Even after the ban on smoking in public places, we see people smoking by roadsides and on pavements, near schools and shops. This is perpetuated by the fact that you can find a cigarette shop every 100 metres. 

Brisk business of loose cigarettes, says shopkeeper

A ‘paan-wala’ on MG Road says he sells more than 300 loose cigarettes a day, which amounts to business worth Rs 4,000 to 5,000. “They are purchased mostly by young professionals who come for a quick smoke during their breaks. More than buying the entire packet, they prefer loose ones,” he says.

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