GUWAHATI, Nov 30 - Consumer Voice, Delhi and Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, Assam, working on tobacco control issues in the State, today organised a State-level workshop on tobacco control in the city.
The purpose of the event was sensitisation of stakeholders on tobacco control measures, especially to protect the young generation from tobacco menace.
Amarjeet Singh Panghal, adviser, legal & projects, Consumer Voice, shared key findings of a recent study conducted about tobacco vendors in three cities in Assam. He said that the density of tobacco vendors is too high in both commercial and residential areas and there is no record available of tobacco vendors. “We found 324 tobacco vendors in six wards/areas of three cities of Assam (Guwahati, Jorhat and Dibrugarh). Tobacco vendors are violating COTPA, 2003. Mandatory warning display board was not found at 67 per cent of the tobacco points of sale. Tobacco products are displayed openly, amounting to advertisements at every point of sale,” he said.
Tobacco advertisements were found at 50 per cent of the points of sale. Sale of loose cigarettes is rampant (around 33 per cent), which frustrates the purpose of pictorial warning at package. Eighty seven per cent tobacco vendors were found selling candy, chips etc., products meant for and to attract children/youths to their shops. He suggested developing a mechanism of tobacco vendor licensing in Assam by municipalities to control tobacco consumption.
The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, vide a letter dated 21st September 2017 and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation on September 28, 2018 issued advisories to all principal secretaries/secretaries of urban development/local self government) of all states/UTs/urban local bodies for ensuring licensing mechanism for tobacco vendors with restrictions on sale of candy, chips, etc.
Speaking on the occasion, advocate Ajoy Hazarika, secretary, Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, Assam, said that the State has shown a significant rise of 9 per cent in overall tobacco consumption from 39.3 per cent during the last survey in 2009-10 to 48.2 per cent now, compared to 6 per cent decline in the national average as per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey report 2016-17.
There was a panel discussion on the needs and strategies for protecting the young generation from the menace of tobacco where Dr Srabana Misra Bhagabaty, Associated Professor-cum in-charge, Department of Preventive Oncology, Dr B Borooah Cancer Institute; Dr Arundhuti Deka, State Nodal Officer, State Tobacco Control Cell, Govt of Assam; Karavi Barman and Dr Rehana Sultana Choudhury, Assistant Professors NEF Law College, Guwahati and Pratul Phukan, retired DIG, Assam Police, gave valuable suggestions on the issue.
Dr Anandita Chanda, Senior Medical Officer, Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) spoke on the role of municipal bodies. Sushmita Goswami, bureau chief, UNI, Guwahati, spoke on the role of media in tobacco control. Arzoo Dutta, Senior State Consultant, National Tobacco Control Programme, Guwahati, also attended the workshop.
The workshop was also largely attended health experts, tobacco control officials, youth icons, officials from GMC, student leaders, media, students, resident welfare associations, CSOs and activists working on tobacco control, consumer and child right issues.