A group of students from BMC-run schools met the Maharashtra health minister and urged him to speed up the process to enforce a ban on
the sale of loose cigarettes as earlier announced by the health ministry.
The students urged Health Minister Deepak Sawant to crack down on street vendors selling loose cigarettes and informed him about teenaged boys getting addicted to smoking.
“Some older boys smoke at tapris outside our school,” said Sudarshan Jagdale (12) from Colaba Mahanagar Palika School, who accompanied four schoolmates to meet the minister.
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The students tied rakhi on the minister’s wrist and requested strict implementation of laws against smoking in public places.
In June, the health ministry had taken a formal decision to ban the sale of loose cigarettes though no notification was issued. The reason cited for considering the ban was that loose cigarettes did not carry any pictorial warnings against the ill effects of smoking as prominently it is displayed on packets. Besides, young people, particularly students, found loose cigarettes easier to procure and afford than cigarette packets.
Sawant has assured that the matter would be raised in the next cabinet meeting. “The health department is working to bring a ban on sale of loose cigarettes in the state. In the next cabinet meeting, we will definitely take a final call and bring a ban on sale of loose cigarettes,” he said. According to Narayan Laad, senior project manager at NGO Salaam Bombay Foundation that encouraged the children to visit the health ministry, loose cigarettes form 75 per cent of the total cigarette sales in India. “In 1991, it constituted 65 per cent of the total cigarette sales. It has increased steadily over the years,” he said.
If the ban is implemented, offenders selling loose cigarettes could face imprisonment of up to two years or be liable to pay a fine of up to Rs 5,000.