NEW DELHI: The Union Health Ministry has planned to increase the legal age for smoking tobacco from the present 18 year to 21 years. The Ministry has proposed that only those who have attained the legal age of 21 years be allowed to smoke. Presently, people over 18 years of age can legally smoke tobacco in the country.
This is being done under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) as stringent action to contain tobacco use in the country.
For this, the health ministry held a slew of meetings with senior officials for making suitable amendments. "A legal sub-group was formed to make amendments for tobacco control. We have submitted our recommendations to the ministry," a health ministry official said.
"Apart from increasing the legal age of tobacco use by 21 years and above, we have also recommended raising the fine amount for those violating the rules. Teenagers are more vulnerable in this age group and can form a habit easily due to peer pressures. Increasing the legal age would help restrict the number of young teenagers who get involved in smoking habits. Even parents cannot send their children aged below 21 to shops for buying these products," he said, adding that the health ministry is planning to increase the penalty for smoking at restricted areas which is currently upto Rs 200.
"In order to stop the illicit trade of cigarettes and tobacco products, we will build a tracking system. There would be a barcode on packets which will be scanned by the enforcement bodies to check whether the product has reached the market through proper legal channels and taxes have been paid or not," said the official.
"It's a good step if the legal age of smoking is being enhanced from 18 to 21yr and bringing some amendments in COTPA. Enforcement is required and needs to be strengthened on the implementation level. Global Youth Tobacco Survey India 2009 states that 14.6% of students of 8,9 & 10 class were using tobaccos ( Boys 19% & girls 8.3%). The findings of current GYTS are expected soon," Dr. S K Arora, Additional Director (Health) at Delhi government told ANI.
"The need of the hour is also to have a chapter on tobacco control in the school curriculum so that the whole community (teachers, students and parents) get educated right from the beginning. I have been writing to NCERT for the last five years to create a chapter on this from class 6th to 12th in CBSE & State boards but it has not yielded any results," he said.