India - despite govt ban, sale and advertising of tobacco products is rampant around educational institutions..

February 2, 2011 - According to a provision in the Cigarettes and other tobacco products Act, 2003 (COPTA), sale and advertisement of tobacco and related products are banned within 100 meters of educational institutes and airports.

PUNE: A series of raids by India's Food and Drug Administration has revealed that the idea of tobacco-free campus has remained only on paper. (PUNE - formerly called Poona, also known as Punya-Nagari, is the eighth largest metropolis in India, the second largest in the state of Maharashtra after Mumbai.)

An alarming number of vendors were found selling cigarettes and other tobacco products outside schools and colleges across seven divisions of the state. Topping the chart were college campuses in Nagpur, Aurangabad and Pune. Of the over 1,800 shops inspected, more than 1,300 were found selling tobacco within the restricted zone. "Total 1,405 educational institutions across seven divisions of the state were inspected. Of the 1,837 shops and vendors checked, 1,343 were found selling tobacco products within the prohibited zone. A total fine of Rs 2.12 lakh was collected," said C B Pawar, joint commissioner (food) and nodal officer of the FDA.

The move follows a letter from the Union (India) ministry of health and family welfare to the state government on the issue. Under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, selling tobacco products within 100 yards of school and college premises is prohibited. The ministry now wants the state government to enforce it vigorously.

The move assumes significance as India has the highest rate of oral cancer in the world which is mostly caused due to consumption of tobacco. "It has been found that there is an increased trend of tobacco habits among students. By permitting sale of tobacco outside educational institutions alongside candies and soft drinks, young people gets this misleading message that tobacco in any form is normal, benign and socially acceptable. This reflects an alarming situation and calls for urgent anti-tobacco and tobacco cessation measures," says cancer surgeon Rakesh Neve of the Ruby Hall's cancer centre.

"Vendors close to educational institutions need to stop selling tobacco products, failing which they will have to shift elsewhere," said senior food inspector from Pune Mohan Kembalkar.

Reference: Despite govt ban, sale of tobacco rampant around schools, colleges, Umesh Isalkar, Thde Times of India, 1/31/2011.

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