Weak implementation of tobacco control laws in Lucknow: Loreto College Students

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Are the tobacco control laws, as envisaged in the COTPA (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003), like the Ban on Smoking in Public Places, being enforced and followed in the city of Lucknow? Are the Lucknow-citizens any wiser about the hazards of smoking and tobacco consumption? To find the ground reality, some students of Class XII of Loreto Convent College, Lucknow, recently did a random survey of the city, as part of their Environmental Education Project. They surveyed 200 persons (150 males and 50 females) of various age groups, and coming from different strata of society - from rickshaw pullers to executives. Read more

They traversed the entire city clicking photographs of shops/ kiosks selling cigarettes and other tobacco products much within 100 metres range of educational institutions.  They searched in vain, for signage in schools/colleges proclaiming that smoking is prohibited in the premises. They examined the tobacco/ gutkha pouches for the information printed on them, and even posed as customers and easily bought cigarette and tobacco packs, despite being less than 18 years of age.

Some of the results of this survey were startling indeed.

Although a large majority of the respondents (98.5%) had heard anti tobacco messages on television/radio, yet more than 70% of the males and 50% females were found to be users of tobacco products.

Maximum consumption of tobacco products was in the age group of 19-23 years (21%).

The following points emerging from this study indicate the violation of one or more of some of the provisions of COTPA 2003:-

Ban on Smoking In Public Places: 41% of the respondents confessed to have smoked in public places, but surprisingly 94% of the offenders were neither checked nor fined for this violation. More that 29% respondents said that there was no ban on smoking at their workplace.

Ban on Sale of Tobacco Products To (and By) Minors: Out of all the minors surveyed (males and females), 81% of the males and 33% of the females were tobacco users. 76% of the people felt that it was very easy for minors to buy tobacco. In fact, more than 51% of the respondents had bought tobacco products from minors, at some time or the other.

Tobacco Products Cannot Be Sold Within A Radius Of 100 yards Of Educational Institutions:
78% of the people said that they had seen tobacco shops within 100 yards radius of schools and colleges. In fact, out 36 schools/colleges which the students personally visited, 30 had one or more shops selling cigarettes and tobacco products, in some cases right next to their entry gates.

Ban On Direct And Indirect Advertising Of Tobacco Products: Out of the 20 gutkha packets of different brands studied by the students, 7 were known to be regularly advertised on television, radio, cinema halls. But the implementation of the law seems to be stricter in case of cigarettes with none of the brands being advertised through any communication medium.

Warnings To Be Displayed In Two Languages –One In Which The Brand Name Appears And One In Any Other Language Used On The Pack: Only 13 out of the 20 gutkha packets had warnings in Hindi and English, with 5 of them also mentioning ‘Not for sale to minors’. Two brands had the warnings printed in English only, while one mentioned it in Hindi only. One brand mentions the warning in Hindi on some packs and in English on others. Three brands carried no health warnings at all.

Ingredients Should Be Declared On Tobacco Product Packs: Only 12 gutkha brands had mentioned some, relatively safe ingredients on their packs. But the nicotine and tar content was not mentioned on any pack.

The dedication and determination of the students in executing this project is commendable indeed. The survey has helped them get a deeper insight into the menace of tobacco and made them more sensitive about the need to eradicate the scourge of smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco from our society. Their sincere efforts need to be replicated, so that a mass ‘anti tobacco’ awareness movement is started amongst school/college students of the city.

Well done Vatsala, Karishma, Ishita, Subhanshi, Vani, Anam, Tania, Ameena, Deepanshi and Swati (Class XII, Loreto Convent College, Lucknow).

Shobha Shukla
(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service(CNS), Director of CNS Diabetes Media Initiative, has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP, and teaches Physics at India's prestigious Loreto Convent. Email: shobha@citizen-news.org, website: www.citizen-news.org)