According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 12% of the world’s smokers are Indians. There are talks of the present anti-smoking law in India to be amended very soon. These are part of amendments to be made in Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) (Amendment) Bill 2015.
Present Anti-smoking Law
- According to the present anti-smoking law in India, smoking in public places is banned all over the country and this was effective from 2 October 2008.
- The minimum age of buying tobacco products is 18 years.
- Penalty for smoking in public places is Rs. 200.
- No person below the age of 18 years should be engaged in cultivation, processing, sale of cigarettes, tobacco or tobacco products.
- It is illegal to employ anyone below 18 years of age for any work related to the tobacco industry. Displaying and selling tobacco products in prohibited public places is illegal. Any person found guilty in this regard will be fined Rs. 10,000.
- Direct and indirect advertisements of all tobacco products are banned.
- Selling tobacco products within an area of 100 metres enclosing schools and educational institutions is prohibited.
- It is mandatory for tobacco products to carry specified health warnings.
Public Places Where Smoking is Banned
Hospitals, Amusement Centre, Public Offices, Court Buildings, Schools, Colleges, Libraries, Public Conveyance, Railway Stations, Bus Stops, Shopping Malls, Cinema Halls, etc.
There are designated smoking zones in hotels, restaurants, pubs, airport lounges, etc. There are no restrictions on smoking in parking spaces, open market places, roads and parks.
What Are the Amendments Proposed in the Law?
According to news reports, the amendments in the present anti-smoking law include:
- To prohibit sale of loose cigarettes.
- To raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21 years.
- To raise the fine amount on smoking in public places to Rs 1,000.
- To do away with designated smoking zones in restaurants and hotels since it does not serve the purpose of protecting the non-smokers. However, there is an exception for international airports.
The new amendment also recommends increasing the maximum fine amount from Rs. 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh for violation of the proposed law. This is expected to make people more cautious of not selling cigarettes in public places.
Special session courts for trial of tobacco-related offences has also been proposed to expedite trials and ensure effective implementation of the law.
As expected, it has not been so easy to enforce this anti-smoking programme to a great extent. According to a research report by Euromonitor International, in India more than 70% of cigarettes are sold loose. In 2012, 102.1 billion sticks of cigarettes were smoked in the country. Smoking is also one of the prime causes of lung cancer and deaths in India. By 2020, it is predicted that tobacco will be the main cause of almost 13% of deaths in India. Not only that, people are willing to pay fines but not willing to stop smoking in public places.
Why Does the Law Need Amendments?
The sale of loose cigarettes is more than the packets which mean these are easily available and are cheaper. It is time to ban selling of loose cigarettes.
Young children in the age group of 14 and 15 years also smoke and it is difficult to differentiate between an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old. Hence, it is a good decision to raise the age of smoking to 21 years.
Giving away Rs.200 or Rs.10,000 as penalty is very easy for many smokers and cigarette sellers. So, there is a need to increase the penalty amount. Similarly, designated smoking zones should be limited.
There is a probability of the number of tobacco consumers dwindling if a more stringent law comes in place. However, the past records paint a different picture. Although the Central and state governments claim making a headway, people are still openly flouting restrictions on smoking.