NEW DELHI: Sale of cigarettes near schools in Delhi is rampant despite a ban in place. The Morning Standard, in fact, came across some kiosks where cigarettes are sold right opposite the school gate or within 100 yards of the building.
The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA) prohibits sale of tobacco products within a radius of 100 yards of any educational institution
A case in point is ASN Senior Secondary School at Mayur Vihar Extension, where at least two kiosks were operating just across the road, displaying not only cigarettes but other tobacco products such as ‘gutkha’.
One of the shopkeepers conceded that he knew about the 100 yard rule, and added that the school has objected to his kiosk in the past. “But the kiosk is my bread and butter. Where else will I go?”
At the same time, the kiosk owner said he sold only products such as candies, biscuits, ‘namkeen’, etc to school kids.
Here too, the kiosk owner was violating the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s (MoHFW) advisory — issued in September 2017 — that shops which sell tobacco products cannot hawk non-tobacco products, which are essentially meant for non-user, especially children.
Recently, Consumer Voice and Voluntary Health Association of India had done a joint study in 20 cities, including Delhi, across six states.
The survey found tobacco companies and vendors were targeting kids as young as eight years by putting advertisements in and around schools to sell cigarettes and other tobacco products. In Delhi, the survey covered 40 schools, out of which violations were observed in at least 23-25 cases.
ASN Senior Secondary School’s Administrative Coordinator Anjali Verma said the institution had asked the local police station to remove all such vendors. “Teachers have been put on duty near the market and these shops to ensure students do not go here. Moreover, we conduct regular workshops to sensitise our students about ill-effects of tobacco,” she asserted.
In some cases, the kiosks were found closer as in the case of a municipal corporation school in Shakurpur village where the shop touches the boundary wall of the school.
Similarly, a shop selling water, biscuits, chips etc across the road at Hansraj Senior Secondary School in Dilshad Garden was found clandestinely selling cigarette. Though there were no cigarettes on display, the owner handed out loose sticks when asked for it. He, however, requested us not to smoke in front of the shop.
At Ahlcon International School, Mayur Vihar Phase 1, the vendor not only is close to the school gate but also sells cigarette sticks. The COPTA bans sale of loose cigarettes as they don’t have pictorial warnings on ill-effects of smoking.
“School kids who depend on their parents for pocket money can’t buy whole packs. Vendors sell cigarettes and bidis via single sticks, making these products cheap and accessible to children and youth,” said Ashim Sanyal, Chief Operating Officer, Consumer Voice.
At south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj, kiosks were found within a one-two minute walk from the gates of schools such as G D Goenka and Bhatnagar International.
When these cases were highlighted, an official of the Directorate of Education said the police and the municipal corporations should ensure such tobacco shops do not come up near schools. A North civic body official said drives were regularly conducted against such kiosks or shops.
Some Rules on sale of cigarette
Section 6 of The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA) bans sale of tobacco to and by minors and prohibits the sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of educational institutions.
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare says signage detailing sales prohibition to be displayed prominently near the main gate and on the boundary wall of schools and institutes.
Section 77 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 additionally criminalises distribution of tobacco products to children
A MoHFW advisory in September 2017 recommended licensing of tobacco vendors through municipal authorities