Strong public health measure in UP: Sale of loose cigarettes can attract prison term

Rahul Dwivedi, CNS
[हिंदी] The government of Uttar Pradesh in India has made a bold and evidence-backed move ahead in favour of public health by banning sale of loose cigarettes and making it a penal offense. According to a news, "manufacturing and sale of loose cigarettes would invite a fine and a prison sentence, according to the orders issued by principal secretary (health) Arvind Kumar. The state cabinet approved the move last week and with Governor Ram Naik signing an ordinance, the health department issued orders to the effect late on Tuesday."

Rahul Dwivedi who leads Vote For Health campaign of Asha Parivar and CNS, said: "As per the new law, anybody found selling loose cigarettes would be face a fine of Rs.1,000 and serve a one-year jail term. Any individual violating the law for a second consecutive occasion would face a fine of Rs.3,000 and serve a three-year jail term. Anybody caught manufacturing loose cigarettes will face a fine of Rs.10,000 and serve a five-year jail term. This is an important public health step UP government has taken."

According to a research study conducted by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), and published in Asian Pacific Journal of Caner Prevention, nearly 75% of all cigarettes in India are sold as single sticks valued at close to 30 per cent of the Rs.35,000 crore (over $5 billion) Indian market. "The sale of single cigarettes, which is not in the interest of public health, is an important factor for early experimentation, initiation and persistence of tobacco use, says the study. The singles also give vendors a perverse incentive to extract extra margins. For cigarette companies, singles make it easier to promote new brands and conduct market research on customers at the point of sale" said Dwivedi.


Dwivedi further added: "UP govt has raised VAT on all tobacco products but exempted beedi recently. According to the latest data of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for UP state, bidi smoking in men was 5 times more than those who smoke cigarettes (20.1% bidi vs 4.1% cigarette) whereas bidi smoking was nearly 18 times more popular than cigarette smoking in women. Overall bidis (12.4%) were 5.5 times more popular than cigarettes (2.3%). When beedi smoking is many times more than cigarette smoking, then why has not VAT been increased on Beedi as well? We appeal to UP government to raise taxes on all tobacco products and protect health of its citizens."

Tobacco kills over a million Indians every year. Despite such an enormous death toll, there is hardly any hue and cry to end the tobacco game, rather advancing public health measures have faced repeated obstacles. "Implementation of 85% pictorial warnings on all tobacco packs got delayed by a year - which is just not acceptable! Who is responsible for delaying public health impact of evidence-based policy measures?" asked Dwivedi.

Citizen News Service - CNS
7 October 2015