Thiruvananthapuram, July 27 – Eminent public figures have called for stronger tobacco supply reduction measures – in particular, imposing licensing restrictions – to protect youngsters better. Enforcement of the Indian tobacco control law (COTPA, 2003), should go hand-in-hand with strict implementation of existing licensing systems, they point out.
This latest appeal comes in the wake of studies conducted in various parts of the state on the ready availability of, and ease of access to, tobacco products near educational institutions, despite laws against such.
More than half of the high school and higher secondary school students surveyed in a study carried out in the rural areas of Thiruvananthapuram district by the Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) here reported the prevalence of illegal tobacco sales near their educational institutions.
An alarming 60 per cent of students in the higher secondary group (HSS) and 52 per cent in the high school (HS) group reported tobacco sales in the study, which covered 1,114 students across 10 randomly selected Government schools. The study was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Addiction.
Shri TP Sreenivasan, former Vice Chairman and executive head of the Kerala State Higher Education Council said, “The findings of these studies are significant and tell us that all is not well. The key lies in reducing the number of tobacco retailers, especially near educational institutions, and cancelling the licenses of any retailer found selling tobacco products in the vicinity of educational institutions.”
“We need to work collectively to create and sustain a system that produces tobacco-free educational institutions, to which parents can send their children with peace of mind,” added this former Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations in Vienna.
Shri SM Vijayanand, Former Chief Secretary, Kerala and Former Union Secretary, Panchayats and Rural Development said, “Preventing young people from taking up tobacco use has become a top health priority today, especially as children as young as 15 years are falling prey to it. Local governments can play a proactive role in tobacco control by ensuring that only traders that have a valid D&O licence be allowed to sell tobacco products. Enforcement of licensing for tobacco sellers will only augment implementation of COTPA for public health.”
Both the Kerala Municipality Act and the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act require shops storing, processing, making or selling tobacco products to be in possession of a Dangerous & Offensive Trades license.
Dr Paul Sebastian, Director, RCC and the principal investigator of the study, said, “As a researcher, a doctor and also a parent, I was pained to see young children stating that there is easy availability of tobacco products near their institutions of learning. The WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has called for implementing licensing to control and regulate tobacco supply. Such a measure can reduce tobacco retailer density, leading to lower tobacco use initiation among children.”
Another study by Kannur Medical College found that a high 41 per cent of the students surveyed said they got tobacco products from a shop near their school, while around 27 per cent got it from friends. It surveyed 775 higher secondary school students, including 336 boys and 439 girls, in two random pre-university schools of that district.
Nearly 79 per cent of surveyed students said that it was “fairly easy” and “very easy” to obtain these products. The study was published the open-access, peer-reviewed International Journal of Scientific Study.
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