Public health is a priority for the government and suitable amendments to the COTPA Act will be incorporated without prejudice, fear, or scare of the lobby, says Guru Prakash Paswan, National Spokesperson of the BJP, law expert and writer.
Growing consumption of tobacco products among children and youth is a grave cause of concern. In addition to causing around 13 lakh deaths annually in the country, tobacco in all its forms causes serious diseases.
“Nearly 28% of the adults (aged 15 years and above) are known to consume tobacco products. Even more distressing is the fact that 9% of children aged between 13 and 15 years of age consume tobacco in some form or the other. We are sitting on a ticking timebomb and need to take quick action to ensure our demographic dividend does not convert into a demographic disaster,” opined Guru Prakash Paswan, who is also an author and an Assistant Professor of law at Patna University. He was speaking to Arun Anand, Senior Journalist and Author while participating in an online discussion ‘India’s Resolution for a Healthy India, Tobacco Free India’ which was organized by Tobacco Free India, a group of concerned citizens.
Youth and children are particularly vulnerable as the powerful tobacco lobby uses several methods, such as surrogate advertising and placing ads at points-of-sale (PoS), to lure them. The ads at PoS are placed along with candies, toffees and sundry items at child-eye level, to attract young kids. Promoting tobacco consumption as a way to look cool and fashionable is also a reason for growing tobacco consumption among the youth. A lot of celebrities are also endorsing tobacco products, which is adversely affecting our next generation.
“We cannot let our youth idolize people who consume or promote consumption of tobacco products. We cannot let tobacco ruin our next generation. We must come together as a society and fight this menace. The proposed amendments to the tobacco-control law COTPA of 2003 can prove to be a step in this direction,” says Guru Prakash.
Ban on display of advertisements of tobacco products at PoS and complete ban on smoking in public places are some of the proposed amendments to the tobacco control law COTPA. Although smoking in public places is prohibited, designated smoking areas, such as those in hotels, restaurants, and airports are permitted, which inadvertently promote smoking. Global statistics have proven that banning smoking zones can encourage more people to give up smoking.
In addition to causing deaths and diseases, tobacco products also burden the country’s economy by around Rs 1.77 lakh crores annually, which is roughly 1% of the GDP. Affected families not only face the loss of the loved ones but are also drained financially, emotionally and mentally.
‘Azadi ka Amrit Kaal’ is an opportune time for every stakeholder to work together towards realizing the dream of building a healthy India, which is possible only when we have a truly tobacco-free India. Public support can strengthen the resolve of the government to take more initiatives – such as the ban on e-cigarettes – to save the citizens from damages caused by consumption of tobacco products.