October 26, 2021 5:39:37 pm
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has urged the central and state governments to increase the minimum legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 to ensure young adolescents are protected from getting addicted to them.
According to NCPCR chairman Priyank Kanoongo, amendments should be made to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, popularly known as COTPA 2003, to ensure the same.
“The sale of loose, single sticks of cigarettes should be banned by amending COTPA 2003 as this is crucial to protect youth from tobacco. Such measures have the potential to reduce the initiation of tobacco use among youngsters which could further push them to become regular smokers,” he said during a recent webinar titled ‘Strengthening Legal Framework for Protecting Youth from Tobacco’, organised by the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru.
Priyank Kanoongo added that it was scientifically established that if a person is kept away from tobacco till the age of 21, the probability that he/she will remain tobacco-free for the rest of his/her life is higher.
Meanwhile, Dr M Selvarajan, deputy director of the Karnataka State Tobacco Control Cell, said an individual was likely to nurture rational thinking by at least 21 years of age. “At 21, they will surely have the rational thinking to avoid what is bad for them. Also, it is very unlikely for adults to pick up the habit of smoking when they cross a certain age,” he said.
At the same time, Ashim Sanyal, chief operating officer of Consumer Voice — a voluntary action group comprising academicians, professionals, and others to raise awareness among Indian consumers — accused tobacco manufacturers of “exploiting loopholes” in the law to target the youth. “They (tobacco companies) target impressionable minds of children and youth through their marketing tactics. It is critical to strengthen the law by removing all exemptions allowing point of sale advertisements. The sale of single cigarettes or bidis can also be banned to prevent them from endangering the lives of our young generation,” he said.
It can be recalled that the recent Global Youth Tobacco Survey report released by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya indicated that nearly one-fifth of the students aged 13-15 use tobacco products in India. The nationwide survey also revealed that 38 per cent of cigarettes, 47 per cent of bidi, and 52 per cent of smokeless tobacco users picked up the habit before turning 10.
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