Corporation yet to receive orders on licensing tobacco outlets

Chennai: In view of the rising tobacco consumers in Tamilnadu among other south Indian States, the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation released a circular 25 September directing to develop a mechanism to licence, through local body authorities, shops selling tobacco products.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2, released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in June, revealed that there has been a rise of 3.8 per cent points from 16.2 per cent in GATS 1 to 20 per cent in GATS 2. The study further points out that 31 per cent men, 9.3 per cent women and 20 per cent adults either smoke tobacco and / or use smokeless tobacco.

Considering the alarming case, the Union Ministry sought to pass the order of letting the corporations or municipal bodies to authorise the establishment of outlets selling tobacco products with valid TIN/PAN/GST number.

“This will help in compliance with all the applicable tobacco control laws at the retail level and will also generate revenue for municipal bodies to cover the enforcement of licensing system and for public health,” stated the order.

It further stated that the authorised stores shall not sell any other products such as toffees, etc., which are essentially meant for non-tobacco users, especially children.

Appreciating the move, New Delhi-based Consumer Voice chief operating officer Ashim Sanyal opines, ‘This is a follow-up of the earlier advisory of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, issued in 2017 and is trying to overcome the State’s implementation problems as many states will have municipalities implementing the order and these are under the urban development. So, a combined effort to enact tobacco control state policy is a welcome move and would allow two major State departments take out orders at either State or municipalities level, independently or jointly. A big boost for tobacco control measure.’

However, when News Today contacted Greater Chennai Corporation, an official said they have not received any notification to implement the order.

“This is an advisory from the Central Ministry and, hence, adoption by the States is optional. Most States put it up for the record and adoption as a State rule is rare. Only Madhya Pradesh has brought a State law till date, based on this advisory,” added Ashim Sanyal.

Explaining the challenges in implementation, Ashim says, “Following it up with the officials in each State to set up a process for drafting the State legislation ‘on priority’ basis is where the trick lies. Since this has significant political and enforcement issues, there is slow movement. Also, as a State law, this has to pass through the legal department’s concurrence which takes time. So, each of the states and UTs have to be followed up separately which is a huge task.”

Tamilnadu People’s Forum for Tobacco Control (TNPFTC) State convenor S Cyril Alexander opines that the enforcement can effectively bring down the overall consumption of the substance.

“We have not had licensing process in the past; if implemented, it can bring about big change as the product would be available only in exclusive outlets and that in turn, affects sales. With licensing, we can easily identify the number of shops selling tobacco items which would come handy when we want to create awareness,” stated Cyril Alexander.

* From GATS 1 to GATS 2, the prevalence of smoking has increased by 0.9 percentage points; however, the increase is not significant. The prevalence of smokeless tobacco has significantly increased by 2.5 percentage points.
* The prevalence of any tobacco use has also significantly increased by 3.8 percentage points from 16.2 per cent in GATS 1 to 20.0 per cent in GATS 2.
* Cigarette and betel quid with tobacco are the two most commonly used tobacco products; 6.3 per cent of adults smoke cigarette and 6.0 per cent use betel quid with tobacco.
* Similar to GATS 1, in GATS 2 also none of the persons aged 15-17 reported using tobacco.
* The mean age at initiation of tobacco use has increased from 18.5 years in GATS 1 to 20.6 years in GATS 2.
* 73.8 per cent of smokers were advised by a health care provider to quit smoking and 59.1 per cent of smokeless tobacco users were advised by a health care provider to quit smokeless tobacco use.
* One in every five adults who worked indoors was exposed to second-hand smoke at the workplace.
* 12.1 per cent of all adults were exposed to second-hand smoke at a public place.
* 76.1per cent of cigarette smokers and 59.5 per cent of bidi smokers thought of quitting smoking because of warning label. 42.5 per cent of smokeless tobacco users thought of quitting smokeless tobacco use because of warning label.


Bhavani Prabhakar