New Delhi,Tobacco is the only legal consumer product that can harm everyone exposed to it – and it kills up to half of those who use it as intended, therefore the tobacco industry looks for tapping new consumers, with special attention on young children. Sale of loose cigarette and bidi is one such established marketing strategy of the tobacco industry to promote its sale. As per the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, 2009, 14.6% of the youth in the age group of 13-15 years in India consume tobacco in some form or other. More than 5500 children/adolescents start tobacco consumption daily.
Nearly two third of the sale of cigarette and bidis is in the form of loose sticks. Loose sale encourages sale of tobacco products especially to children by increasing propensity and susceptibility of minors to buy tobacco products. It also thwarts the measures of Government to reduce the demand of tobacco by raising taxes. The consumer does not feel the rigors of price rice due to increase in taxes when he buys the tobacco products individually or loose instead of the whole pack. Lack of pictorial warning on lose cigarettes deprives the buyer of the impactful information about harmful effects of tobacco. Though, sale of lose cigarette/bidi should be prohibited for violating section 7/8 of COTPA, it has not been enforced till now.
Mr Amitabh Gupta, IPS, legal Metrology Officer of Maharashtra, sent letters to all the cigarette and bid manufacturers to comply to the amended Legal Metrology Act that was notified in May 2015. As per this amended act, no tobacco product can be sold without mandatory display as prescribed by the ACT. The letters were sent on 8th February, 2016. The direct ramification of this amendment is that lose cigarettes and bidis can not be sold lose henceforth. We are in possession of the copies of the letter obtained from RTI that are appended and it is self explanatory. The details of the legal provision invoked are as follows -
Section 2 (m) of Legal Metrology Act – Retail Sale price means the maximum price at which the commodity in packaged form may be sold to the ultimate consumer and the price shall be printed on the package in the manner below.
Section 18 of Legal Metrology Act of the Act lays down that no person shall manufacture, pack, sell, import, distribute, deliver, offer, expose or possess for sale any pre-packaged commodity unless such package is in such standard quantities or number and bears thereon such declarations and particulars in such manner as may be prescribed.
Rule 6 of the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011("Rules") explicitly prescribes the mandatory declarations to be specified in all packaged commodities meant for sale, offer for sale distribution, etc. It is proposed to include sub clause 3 of Section 18 which states that "the Central Government, may provide for different declarations for different type of prepackaged commodities as required".
Legal Metrology Act stands amended with regards to Section 26 that enlists the exceptions to the LMA - the net weight or measure of the commodity in 10 g or ten ml or less, if sold by weight or measure.
Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Prof and Surgeon, TMH said " Considering the prevalence of tobacco use especially amongst children and youth of this country and the burden on the public exchequer to control its menace there is an urgent need to curb any activity that may result in promotion of its use and any effort that may undermine or contravene laws such as COTPA, 2003 or Legal Metrology Act 2015 enacted specifically to discourage tobacco use.”
The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is created to implement efficient methods to reduce tobacco consumption across the world. India ratified FCTC and the treaty entered into force in India on 27th February 2005, therefore India is legally obligated to comply with treaty provisions to reduce tobacco consumption globally. The objective of this Convention and its protocols is to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption(Article 3).
Dr PC Gupta, Director, Healis, Navi Mumbai said " Sale of loose cigarettes thwarts efforts to reduce demand of tobacco by raising taxes on tobacco products and consequently its price (Article 6) and measures to reduce its supply by prohibiting sale of tobacco products to minors. Article 16(2) of FCTC states: “each party shall endeavour to prohibit the sale of cigarettes individually or in small packets which increase the affordability of such products to minors”.
Mr Sanjay seth, Chief, operation. healis said "There is very high prevalence of tobacco use amongst children and youth of the country, the Global Adult Tobacco Survey India Report 2010, states that more than one-third (35%) of adults (15 years and above) in India (almost 28 crore in number) use tobacco in some form or the other (47% men and 21% women). "