About 54 per cent of points of sale of tobacco has no visible health warning and nearly half of the vendors around schools sell tobacco products, a new study has revealed. Claiming that multinational tobacco companies sell their products around schools, the study titled 'Tiny Targets' by NGOs Voluntary Health Association of India and Consumer Voice termed it a "very systematic and widespread" ruse to get young people addicted to tobacco.
As many as 243 schools and 487 points of sale were closely surveyed during this study in 20 cities. The study claimed that despite the prohibition of the sale of tobacco products near educational institutes, numerous shops, vendors and points of sale resort to selling and advertising tobacco products around schools. It also claimed that vendors sell tobacco products on discount and distribute free samples to attract customers.
"Investigators documented that of the 225 tobacco points of sale observed, 91 per cent of displays were at one metre - a child's eye level; 54 per cent of the points of sale had no visible health warning and 90 per cent of displays were beside candy, sweets and toys," the study said. M V Gowda, a Rajya Sabha MP, said behavioural aspects need to be changed to deal with easy access to tobacco products.
"Easy access remains a problem," he said, adding, "Young people are vulnerable to the temptations of tobacco and alcohol even before they were able to make informed and mature decisions. "For some, these become a gateway to drugs. Therefore it is important to protect youth from these harmful effects." Pawan Gupta, an onco-surgery specialist, said these days cancer is getting detected among people as young as 28 years mainly due to smoking tobacco.
"Every eight second, a person dies of smoking and tobacco use is responsible for 30 per cent of all deaths. These figures are appalling and children need to be more careful as if they have a greater chance of contracting cancer as their organs are not mature enough," Gupta said. The study also gave a set of recommendations, including improvement in the enforcement of Cigarette and Other Tobacco Product Act (COPTA) and its compliance should be a condition of a vendor license where violations of COPTA should constitute a violation of license itself. COPTA prohibits the sale of tobacco sale around the school. "Municipalities can enforce state bans on the sale of single sticks of tobacco through vendor licensing with violations of such bans constituting a violation of the license itself," the study said.
(With inputs from agencies.)