In order to prevent children and school students getting easy access to tobacco, the Karnataka government is mulling a new special license, which will regulate the sale of cigarette and other forms of tobacco among shop owners. This special license will be issued to shops by respective urban local bodies, which will, in turn, help curb the easy availability of such products near educational institutions.
UT Khader, Karnataka Minister for Urban Development and Housing and former Health Minister, told TNM, “At a recent quarterly meeting, we learnt that the tobacco products, especially cigarettes and beedis, are being sold in small shops and retail stores near schools. In addition to a normal trade license, shop owners should get a special license to sell tobacco. If this happens, we can not only curb the sale of tobacco, but also the sale of substances like ganja near educational institutions.”
The minister added, “We are still holding talks and discussions regarding the feasibility of formulating new rules for the sale of tobacco products and bring in special licenses, which would be necessary to sell tobacco products. The licenses can be obtained from the urban local body of the respective areas.”
The new licencing rule will be part of the 20-point Karnataka Development Programme.
The minister said that currently, it is not practical for the police to take action and book cases under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA).
During his tenure as the Health Minister, he had prohibited the sale of loose cigarettes and also expressed his apprehension about other additives being mixed with tobacco. However, implementation of the same has been lax after the first few weeks of the announcement.
Though UT Khader admitted to the lax in the implementing the ban, he did not reason the problem out. He, however, hopes that reducing the number of shops that sell tobacco products will help identify violators and book cases under COTPA.
According to Mariswamy, acting chairperson of the Karnataka State Child Rights Commission, the government should have more stringent measures to put an end to the problem.
“The government is defensive about the sale of tobacco, stating it is a commercial crop for the farmers. But, that is outweighed by the negative impact it has on the lives of children. As it is the responsibility of the government to take care of farmers’ interests, they should take care of the interests of children too,” he told TNM.
In recent years, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, people in Karnataka are found to use tobacco at a later age than earlier while tobacco usage on a whole has also reduced. While tobacco usage was pegged at 28.2% in 2009-10, the number came down to 22.8% in 2016-17.