HYDERABAD: People looking to buy a cigarette or two at a nearby pan shop may not be able to do so in future what with the Central government accepting the recommendation of an expert panel to ban the sale of loose cigarettes.
Alarmed by this proposal, hundreds of pan shop owners have decided to protest against the proposed ban and claimed that their livelihood would be hit if the government goes ahead with the ban.
Not surprisingly, smokers across the city cried foul over the proposal. With cigarette prices soaring through the roof, smokers feel that restrictions on tobacco users are unnecessary.”I feel smoking is a personal choice and everybody knows that it’s harmful for health. Why aren’t similar measures taken about alcohol and other harmful substances? Why are only smokers singled out?” questioned a 24-year-old software professional.
With the government also mulling over increasing the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 25, tobacco users say it is a needless move. “With the kind of technology available today and exposure youngsters have, it is impossible for people to not know about the ill-effects of smoking. Are you trying to tell me that a 22-year-old does not know that tobacco intake is harmful?” questioned PV Rao, a retired engineer.
Even as smokers lamented the restrictions on them, health care professionals welcomed the move and called it a step in the right direction. “There is also a proposal of increasing fines for public smoking. It will definitely minimise smoking and more vital, passive smoking. Every year 60,000 die of passive smoking,” observed Dr Subhakar, pulmonologist, Care Hospital.
“In every cigarette, there is mainstream smoke which the person inhales and sidestream smoke which is the smoke coming from the burning end of the cigarette which goes into the environment. This sidestream smoke is even more dangerous than the mainstream smoke,” he added.
Several smokers are mulling over quitting cigarettes altogether if the proposed law is implemented. “Cigarettes are already so expensive that I’m spending a major chunk of money on them. I have already reduced my intake of cigarettes drastically since I don’t feel the need to spend so much on something that’s eventually going to harm me. Now if the proposed restrictions are imposed, it’s better to give up the habit completely,” shared V Srinivas, an investment banker.
l Ban on sale of loose stick cigarettes
l Ban on retail display of tobacco products
l Increasing minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 25
l Increasing size of health warnings to cover almost 80 per cent of packaging
l Increasing penalties for smoking in public
l Ban on use of additives that can increase flavour of tobacco products
Shopkeepers cry foul
Small shopkeepers from across the country feel that the proposed move would definitely lead to loss of their livelihood. “Does the government expect the poor rickshaw puller or labourer to stop purchasing khaini or bidi or cigarettes in loose form and buy only pack purchase?” questioned Md Salahuddin Deccni, general secretary, Pan Shops Owners Association of India. Retailers feel the warning messages in the shops and on the packs are good enough to achieve the objective. “After 18 years, people are allowed to decide which party to vote for and which movie to watch. Then why can’t they decide whether to purchase tobacco or not,” he fumed. He urged the BJP government to keep the interest of millions of poor retailers in mind before framing such laws.