Wednesday 02 December 2020

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Issues | Smoking

Tobacco lobby seeks review of anti-smoking bill

 

The Tobacco Institute of India has demanded a review of the Goan legislation to ban smoking, chewing and advertising of tobacco products, based on a Supreme Court verdict upholding principles of freedom of commercial expression, consumer's right to information and right to smoke.

In a letter written to the state government here, TII director A C Sarkar has also cited opinions of senior judges including Justice E S Venkatarmiah, Justice P N Bhagwati, Justice Y V Chandrachud and Justice Bakhtavar Lentin, supporting right to smoke.


While objecting to total ban on advertising or promoting tobacco products, Sarkar points out at the Canada Supreme Court judgement declaring advertising ban unconstitutional on the grounds that advertising and tobacco consumption has no significant relationship.

While the UK government has rejected its health ministry's proposal to ban tobacco advertising, Russia and China have either withdrawn or not implemented its proposals whereas USA and Africa have not banned it. The ban is limited to only four countries in Europe, one in Middle East and two in Asia Pacific Region, adds TII.

The tobacco manufacturers also rely upon recent research conducted in Delhi which contends that majority takes up smoking not due to advertising and sponsorships but to see what it is like or because other friends smoke. Another study by scientists points out at lack of education.

While expressing concern about retailers and hawkers who would be harassed as a result of the advertising ban, it will have no effect on newspapers and magazines published from outside Goa but circulated here. Sarkar also feels that ban on sponsorships would have serious economic and cultural implications, especially in a tourist state of Goa.

Claiming that the legislation is impractical, the manufacturers also caution that prohibition of smoking and chewing tobacco products in public places like restaurants, hotel lounges and beaches would directly affect the tourism industry here. Rather than enacting such a legislation, the hospitality managements should take a decision in this regard to protect their clientele, feels Sarkar.

The TII also flays prohibiting storage, sale and distribution of tobacco products around 100 metres of schools and places of worship, stating that it would practically cover whole of Goa considering high density of such institutions and panwallah shops.

The manufacturers, in a letter, not only accept ban on sale and distribution within 20 to 30 ft outside the school gates, but also volunteer to develop a programme for students below the voting age. Students above 18 years however should be excluded from it, they feel.

While asking to review the "impractical" legislation, the TII however has also put forward few proposals like extending printing of statutory warning to all tobacco products and the tobacco industry adopting self-regulation and voluntary code of conduct to control its ill-effects.


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