Proposed amendments to tobacco control law to increase illegal trade: investigation

Proposed amendments to the law regarding cigarettes and other tobacco products are more likely to increase illicit tobacco trade in the country, leading to increased consumption

rather than mitigating it, according to an investigative report prepared by a nonprofit consumer rights organization.

Regulating the unorganized tobacco trade and introducing “enabling laws” instead of “punitive and aggressive legislation” are more necessary, he said.

The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) Amendment Bill 2020 seeks to ban the retail sale of loose cigarette sticks, prohibits the sale of tobacco products to persons under 21, controls the advertising and in-store promotion, among others .

In a statement, Consumer Online Foundation (COF) said it conducted the survey of 5,116 people across the country between April and July to analyze ground realities, opinions, concerns and consumer voices.

On the findings of the study, COF Founding Trustee Bejon Misra said it “highlights that the proposed amendments to the Tobacco Control Act are more likely to increase illicit tobacco trade in the country, thereby encouraging tobacco consumption rather than discouraging it.

It is imperative to regulate the unorganized tobacco trade and put in place fair tax policies to protect Indian consumers from substandard tobacco products. We need enabling laws, not punitive and aggressive legislation that can cause mental agony and depression, he said.

According to the report, no less than 77.50% of respondents indicated a preference for contraband but untaxed tobacco of poor quality.

The illicit tobacco trade is a major concern for government and law enforcement, with a significant portion of this trade passing through the unfenced border that northeastern states have with countries such as China, Myanmar and Bangladesh, he said.

The bill mainly focuses on cigarettes, while the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that the most common form of tobacco consumption in India is smokeless tobacco and commonly used products are tobacco. ‘khaini’, ‘gutkha’, betel quid with tobacco and ‘zarda’, the report adds.

He said the survey results also revealed that ‘beedi’ and chewing tobacco account for more than 75% of tobacco consumption in India, followed by cigarettes at 20.89%.

The report states that although the bill proposes to strengthen penalties for non-compliance with the law and considers tackling black marketing and smuggling of tobacco products, it does not assign any direction to the law in force in this regard.

According to the survey, 66.50% of respondents feel bothered by second-hand smoke (a mixture of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and smoke exhaled by a smoker) and 64.40% believe that designated smoking rooms are actually useful.

This implies that the proposal to close designated smoking areas in airports, restaurants and hotels will increase people’s exposure to second-hand smoke, the statement said.

(Only the title and image of this report may have been edited by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Dear reader,

Business Standard has always endeavored to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that matter to you and that have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your constant encouragement and feedback on how to improve our offering has only strengthened our resolve and commitment to these ideals. Even in these challenging times stemming from Covid-19, we remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative opinions and incisive commentary on relevant topical issues.
However, we have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more so that we can continue to bring you more great content. Our subscription model has received an encouraging response from many of you who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of bringing you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practice the journalism we are committed to.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

digital editor