Mumbaikars doubt whether the state government’s decision to ban the sale of loose cigarettes will work.
The Maharashtra government had brought a proposal to ban the sale of loose cigarettes but even though more than six months have passed but it has failed to implement it. Afternoon Voice had already published a story ‘Youth and paanwalas register protest on No single sutta’ on November 26, 2014. Since then the proposal merely continues to remain on paper. On Monday, the state government had announced a ban on the sale of loose cigarettes but questions are being raised about its effective implementation.
Right now most of the people buy one or two cigarettes instead of entire pack. Thus sale of loose cigarettes is happening despite the government’s directive. The cigarette smokers too are reluctant to purchase a pack of cigarette as it is expensive for them. Hence most of them sometimes buy one or two cigarettes or else borrow from their friends. Even ITC has said that has been a decline in cigarette sales after the government’s directive.
A health department report indicated that more than 70 per cent smokers in the state buy loose cigarettes, and its sale was in violation of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) of 2003. According to the report, CM Devendra Fadnavis has also approved it and Maharashtra will also declare chewing tobacco in public places as illegal.
“Anyone found selling loose cigarettes would face action under the sections of the COTPA. Besides, Maharashtra will be the first state in India to ban tobacco-chewing in public,” Sujata Saunik, Principal Secretary (health) said.
“A public notification will be issued in a couple of days, following which the ban will come into effect”, added Saunik.
“The ban on tobacco is yet to be fully imposed and they are banning the sale of loose cigarettes; who is going to keep a watch on them? This is nothing but a way leading to more corruption,” said Akshay Hajare.
“There is a ban on tobacco, which is sold illegally anyways, people in India are known for ‘Jugads’ (manage things). People will buy a pack of cigarette and will share with others simple as that, ridiculed the government’s decision,” Shezad Mansuri, a chain smoker.
“There are 10s and 20s companies selling cigarette these days, how will we afford to buy whole packets, and also sell them” said a Pan-vendor.
A vendor said, “The tobacco and cigarette companies will eventually come out with other ideas. Companies will introduce smaller pack sizes to cushion impact on policy change.”
Lal Pratap Yadav, a pan stall vendor from Kandivali said, “I earn five rupees by selling 10 single cigarettes but if this order is implemented then I will only earn two rupees by selling a pack containing 10 cigarettes.”
Abhishek Vishwakarma a college student said, “We consume cigarettes daily. We will remain unaffected if a ban is imposed on the sale of loose cigarettes. We will buy the entire pack of 10 cigarettes and will store the remaining sticks for future use.”
Ashok Gupta from Mandakini Paan bedi shop said, “People can’t afford to buy a packet of 10 cigarettes which will have a direct impact on the sales. We will lose our daily customers who buy one or two cigarettes everyday.”
Kalpesh Mahita from Kandivali said, “Only rich people are able to afford the cigarettes which are very expensive. I only smoke two cigarettes daily and a packet contains 10 cigarettes hence I won’t be able to purchase it. Smoking is prohibited in our office and I can’t smoke at home too. Hence, I will have to smoke during the lunch break or after leaving from the office.”
The government has also been planning to increase penalties for smoking in public. Six years ago, India had banned smoking in public places. However, violations have been easy to spot ever since.
Ramesh Surve a Malad resident said, “There is no logic in banning sale of loose cigarettes as one can buy full packet and enjoy smoking. One person shall buy cigarettes pack, which can be distributed among his friends.”
There is already a ban on selling cigarettes and bidis near educational institutions and to those under the age of 18 years.
Satish Dave a Dahisar resident said, “People will smoke anyway. If a ban is imposed on cigarettes then it will be sold in black market. Drugs are also illegal but still they are sold. I am a smoker and want to quit smoking.”
The Health Ministry had set up a committee to recommend measures to bring down the consumption of tobacco products and curb their sale. According to the market research firm Euromonitor International India, 70% of the cigarettes in India are sold loose.
Section 7 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act prohibits any trade in cigarettes or other tobacco products unless every package of cigarettes or any other tobacco products sold, supplied or distributed bears thereon, or on its label, the specified warning, including pictorial warning.
A single cigarette costs about Rs 10 in the financial capital, Mumbai, compared with a pack of 20 that costs Rs 190. The Tobacco Institute of India (TII), an industry body, said the proposed law would not be easily enforceable and would lead to retailers being harassed.
On May 28, Chandigarh, the capital city of Punjab and Haryana, became the first region in the country to ban the sale of loose cigarettes.
As per the provisions of the Section 20 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) of 2003, the vendors as well as manufacturers are punishable with imprisonment for a term that may extend up to two years and/or a fine up to Rs 5,000. A repeat would result in a jail term up to five years and a fine up to Rs 10,000.”