Loosening A Stranglehold

  • With the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recently placing in the public domain a draft Bill that seeks to amend the provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 the war against tobacco has gained further vigour and momentum.
  • The one change  that will have an immediate and lasting impact on reducing tobacco consumption is the prohibition on using a “name or brand of tobacco products for marketing, promoting or advertising other goods, services and events”.
  • Falling within the ambit of indirect advertising, the use of a brand name of a tobacco product to market and advertise a non-tobacco product is a clear case of brand-sharing,
  • This is prohibited by the  WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)
  • It is one of the changes that the government can easily implement and effectively enforce.
  • The draft Bill removes the ambiguity around point-of-sale display by banning the showcasing of tobacco products at the entrance to or inside a shop.
  • This  is in line with the FCTC recommendation to keep these products out of public view.
  • Displaying tobacco products prominently inside a shop is a “key means” to promote them.
  • While the prohibition can further reduce tobacco consumption, putting it into effect will be a major problem as tobacco products are sold predominantly at small shops.
  • For the same reason, banning the sale of these products to anyone under the age of 21 can hardly be enforced.
  • The very fact that 15- to 24-year-olds account for over 27 per cent of tobacco consumption in India clearly indicates that sale to those below 18 years, which is currently not allowed, is a reality.
  • The outcome will be no different in the case of a ban on the sale of cigarettes or bidis in the loose.
  • Ensuring that users are forced to notice the pictorial warning and message on the packets is one of the main reasons for banning the sale of tobacco products except as a whole packet, the amendment, on paper, will have a significant impact, particularly on bidi-smokers.
  • Bidis constitute nearly 85 per cent of all tobacco smoked in India, involving mainly those in the lower economic stratum, on whom pictorial warnings could be expected to have the maximum impact.