The surrogate route to curbing tobacco use Sudhish Kamath

Teen smoking viewed more as a moral than a health issue. Actually this piece should have appeared a few days ago. But then a few days delay does not change the situation. If that be so…

Ruchi, Swati and Tanya (names changed) are having a good time sitting at a café on Chamiers Road one Thursday evening.

They have just lit up their cigarettes and are laughing away at a joke their friend just cracked.

Between them, within the next hour, they finish a whole pack. Ruchi, Swati and Tanya are not old enough to vote, drive or get married.

Two of them just finished school. One of them will pass out next year.

If these kids were in a movie scene, they would be edited out, starting October 2 because the conscientious authorities concerned know all about the effects of smoking and its impact on public health. Kids, however, not just have access to cigarettes these days, they also have their hangouts that let them smoke.

Random facts:

  • The Government banned smoking in public places in 2003. However, the city police department has booked only an average of 25 people a day in the last two years for smoking.
  • According to the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Rules, 2004, sale of tobacco to minors attracts a fine of Rs. 200. However, in spite of the fine that’s cheaper than the cost of ten packs of cigarettes, there have been very few cases.
  • The rules also ban advertisements in the media by companies manufacturing cigarettes and other tobacco products. However, surrogate advertising continues to hoard the skyline.
  • The Indian Government is said to make about Rs.12,000-15,000 crores annually from the tobacco industry. However, the country spends double that amount in treating diseases caused by tobacco- based products.

Unable to stop the sale of the cancer stick, the Government too has taken to surrogate methods to discourage smoking, some of which have come under flak. Its latest decision to ban smoking scenes from films from October 2, for example.

It does seem funny that new laws on curbing indirect influences of smoking are being formulated when the existing ones to tackle public smoking directly have not been effectively implemented.

The thin line between public space and private space has provided ample scope for offenders to get away. And soft crimes, as they are referred to by the police, are really at the bottom of the priority list in a metropolis.

Teen smoking is viewed more as a moral issue than a health issue.

Every year, during World no-tobacco day, government officials wake up to the ill-effects of tobacco and formulate a brand new legislation.

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