BENGALURU: There are glaring gaps in existing tobacco control legislation according to the “Tobacco Control Law in India - Origins and Proposed Reforms” report and experts have urged the Union Health Ministry to overhaul the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003.
Released by the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) on Tuesday, the report pointed out several lacunae in COTPA, such as the existence of smoking areas in restaurants, hotels and airports despite a ban on smoking in public, the misleading impression given by emission yields on cigarette packets, the prominent display given to tobacco advertisements and products in stores despite a ban on such advertising. Insufficient penalties in the law make it ineffective for regulating tobacco consumption and exposure to second hand smoke in India.
India has the second largest number of tobacco users (268 million) in the world. Nearly 1.2 million Indians die every year from tobacco-related diseases, of which 1 million deaths are due to smoking, over 200,000 due to secondhand smoke exposure, and over 35,000 due to smokeless tobacco use. Some of the recommendations in the report include the removal of the provision that allows for designated smoking areas, prohibition of all point of sale advertising and tobacco product displays in stores and kiosks.
The government must also specify that advertising is banned in new internet-based media, and prohibit all tobacco company sponsorship including corporate social responsibility activities. NLSIU Vice Chancellor Dr Sudhir Krishnaswamy said, “The report recommends legislative reforms based on the global public health treaty, to which India is a signatory, as well as best practices adopted by other countries.
We hope the government will consider these recommendations while proposing a comprehensive COTPA Amendment Bill.” Oncologist and member of Karnataka’s High Powered Committee on Tobacco Control, Dr Vishal Rao, said, “Tobacco products should be made inaccessible to save Indians from a lifetime of suffering.”