Consumer VOICE, Delhi in collaboration with Consumers Association of India, Chennai organised a state level workshop on tobacco control in Chennai on 18 December 2018 at Hotel Raj Park, Alwarpet. The purpose of the event was sensitization of stakeholders on tobacco control measures in Tamil Nadu, through vendor licensing, especially to protect the younger generation from tobacco menace.
The welcome address was rendered by Mrs. Nirmala Desikan, Chairperson Consumers Association of India. She gave a brief overview of the tobacco control measures implemented by Tamil Nadu and the need to ensure that COTPA (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act) is implemented fully so that the younger generation is not exposed to the harmful effects of tobacco use.
Chief Guest, Dr K Kolandaiswamy, Director of Public Health, Health and Family Welfare Department inaugurated the workshop and shared that the government had collected around Rs 50-lakhs fine from violators this year in Chennai alone. But, penalty never proved to be a deterrent for selling tobacco products. They continued to advertise tobacco products and sell them near schools and educational institutions, targeting minors. “So, we are working to bring in a policy where only licensed vendors can sell tobacco products,” he added. He said shops that sell tobacco products cannot sell non-tobacco products such as toffees, candies, and biscuits, which are meant for non-tobacco users, especially children.
Dr. A. Somasundaram, Jt. Director of Public Health gave a short address on various measures implemented by the Directorate of Public Health in Tamil Nadu.
Mr. Amarjeet Singh, Advisor Legal & Projects, Consumer VOICE shared key findings of a recent study conducted on tobacco vendors in 3 cities in the state of Tamil Nadu. He said that the density of tobacco vendors is too high and there is no record available of tobacco vendors. We found 258 tobacco vendors in 6 wards of 3 cities (Chennai, Kanchipuram, Pudukkottai) of Tamil Nadu.
- Tobacco vendors are violating COTPA as the mandatory warning display board was not found.
- Sale of loose cigarettes is rampant at 93% point of sale
- 95 % Tobacco vendors were found selling candy, chips etc. the products meant for children & youth despite Govt. of India’s advisories to control it.
Amarjeet Singh, said, “Tobacco use in the country has come down from 7 to 6 per cent from Global Audit Tobacco Survey (GATS ) 1 in 2009-2010 to GATS 2 in 2016-2017. In TN, however, it went up from 16. 2 per cent to 20 per cent from GATS 1 to GATS 2, which is a 4 per cent increase. This is a serious issue which needs to be controlled. “
Mr. Singh suggested developing a mechanism of tobacco vendor licensing in Tamil Nadu by municipalities to control tobacco consumption. The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, vide letter dated 21st September 2017 and Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation on Sept. 28, 2018 issued advisories to all States for ensuring licensing mechanism for tobacco vendors with restriction on sale of candy, chips etc.
Dr. V. Surendran from Cancer Institute Chennai spoke on the ill effects of tobacco and demanded to make tobacco vendor licensing mandatory for effective tobacco control measures in the state.
There was a panel discussion on the needs and strategies for protecting the younger generation from the menace of tobacco where Dr. Vidhya, formerly Director of Public Health Department, Dr.Pratheep, representative NCD, and Mr. Raja Inspector Police gave their valuable suggestions on the issues.
The workshop was attended by more than 50 Health experts, tobacco control officials, representatives from the print and electronic media, students, civil society activists and activists working on tobacco control, Consumer and Child right issues, who thanked the Department of Public Health for their recent order to ban e-cigarettes in Tamil Nadu.