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Tobacco Act: Implementation lost in smoke

sale of tobacco
Nine years after the law came into being, South Goa’s authorities held a workshop on Tuesday at Ravindra Bhavan to take stock of its implementation.

To the “disappointment” of district collector N D Agarwal, who convened the workshop, the implementation of the Cigarette and Other tobacco Products Act, 2003, has been restricted to paper.

By the end of the session, enforcement agencies-police, FDA, mamlatdars, BDOs, health officers -and educational institutes were told to get their act together on the Act. “In my family, if my son is found smoking, will I wait for my grandfather or someone else to come and correct him?” Agarwal asked the attendees. He had noted that the agencies had only listed out their department-wise constraints.

Urging all present to come up with plans to immediately enforce the Act, Agarwal, also the chairperson of the district task force, stressed the need to create awareness about the same.

Section 6 of the Act bans the sale of tobacco and tobacco products within 100 yards of educational institutions and to minors.

In his key note address at the workshop, Dr Ravinder Kumar, technical officer (tobacco control), The Union South East Asia Office, New Delhi, gave examples of how the Act has been successfully implemented in 15 cities across the country.

“Under provisions of the Act, no person can sell, offer for sale, or permit the sale of cigarettes or any other tobacco products to any person under 18 years, and in an area within a radius of 100 yards of any educational institution,” said Kumar.

He expressed hope that the district would be “smoke free” by December 19-Goa’s liberation day. And promised all gathered to help arrange for funds for a scientific survey to gauge the results of the tobacco control programme in the district. He stressed the latter would be possible only if enforcement agencies start implementing the Act right away.

At the end of the workshop Agarwal said that if necessary public announcements in newspapers would be made to create awareness about the Act.

He further pointed out that the fine for violations may be increased to 200, in addition to seizure of goods and revoking of licences.

The district collector advised educational institutes to contact the police or the mamlatdars if they wanted any action taken against anyone found selling tobacco products within 100 yards of their institutions.

The institutions and government offices have also been asked to put up proper signages banning the sale of tobacco and the prohibition on smoking in public places.

The signboards should carry the telephone numbers of the enforcement agencies concerned to whom the public can complain.

Salcete BDO Uday Prabhudesai asked that similar workshops be conducted for panchayat secretaries as well.

Roland Martins of Goa Civic and Consumer Action Network, who was the moderator of the group discussion, appealed to authorities to sensitize Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan about the Act as well. The Abhiyan is actively involved in Goa’s education set-up.

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