The amended Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015, passed by Parliament, has given anti-tobacco campaigners a reason to cheer with the new Act laying down stringent punishment for those selling tobacco products or cigarettes to minors. The offender faces a jail term of seven years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh against the earlier Rs 200 fine imposed under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA).
The new Act has been in force since January 15 this year. With the state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banning flavoured tobacco and tobacco-related products, sale of such items to minors will also come under the ambit of the Act.
The amended law’s Section 77 states: “It is an offence against a child, if a person gives or causes to be given, to any child any intoxicating liquor or any narcotic drug or tobacco products or psychotropic substance, except on the order of a duly qualified medical practitioner.”
“We have already kicked off a drive under Section 4 and 6 of COTPA since January 16. It will continue till January 22. Now that this Act has come into force, we will also keep a constant vigil on sale of tobacco to minors near educational institutions,” said Harish Baijal, Joint Commissioner of Vigilance, FDA.
Section 4 under COTPA deals with prohibition of smoking in public places and Section 6 deals with prohibition of tobacco sale to minors or sale of tobacco around educational institutes.
Under these two sections, the FDA has collected Rs 4 lakh in fine from offenders since January 16 in Maharashtra.
“With this Act, India has become the only nation in the world to impose such a harsh penalty for selling tobacco to minors… Nearly 27.5 crore Indians use tobacco and a vast majority of them start the habit in their childhood,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head and neck surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital.
The law will help curb the high incidence of oral cancer due to tobacco consumption. According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, the age of initiation of tobacco habits in India is 17 years.
The amended law, under Section 107(1), also makes it mandatory for every police station to appoint a child welfare police officer to now deal with children either victims or perpetrators under the Act. “The implementation of this section will take some time. We already have a juvenile aid post unit in each police station. It is most likely this additional duty will be allotted to them,” said police spokesperson Dhananjay Kulkarni.