HYDERABAD: Despite the ban on the sale of tobacco products near schools, colleges, the material is easily available near many educational institutions in Hyderabad. The sale of cigarettes, bidis, gutkha, paan and other tobacco-related products within 100 metres of educational institutions is a violation of Section 6 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003.
However, unauthorised makeshift pan shops are a common sight and can be found adjacent to various colleges including St.Joseph’s Degree College, Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture And Fine Arts University (JNAFAU), AV College, Deccan College Of Engineering And Technology, and Slate School in Abids, among others.
During the ‘Making Hyderabad a Smoke Free City’ workshop earlier this year, Hyderabad City Police in collaboration with the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare, had decided to reinforce the rules regarding the availability of tobacco products near educational institutions strictly.
“We set up ‘No smoking’ signboards near major educational institutions. Due to our vigil, the number of public smokers has reduced in the city,” claimed an official with the Hyderabad police.But a recent RTI query by activist Akshay Kumar revealed that COTPA violation cases in Hyderabad have risen from 586 to 11,927 in the last two years. However, no strict action against pan shops located within 100 metres of colleges have been taken up so far, alleges Kumar. “The pan shops are deliberately set up near the educational institutions, especially at Himayatnagar and Narayanguda, which are a hub for junior and degree colleges,” he added.
“You can see students smoking here every day after college. It is annoying to the residents do it as well,” said Mohammed Shabeer, a resident whose house is located close to St Joseph’s Degree College in King Koti. “Soon after 2pm, students gather here in groups to talk and smoke till the evening, while the police rarely take any action,” he alleged.