Can COTPA help Arunachal Pradesh in fighting intoxication?
Consider this – you’re in a public bus on your way to your favourite destination, and all of a sudden you notice the passenger next to you lights up his cigarette and starts smoking. This can quickly make you feel uncomfortable during the ride, especially if you’re a non-smoker. It is quite bothersome when people take to smoking or consuming intoxicants in public places. In fact, for non-smokers and people suffering from breathing ailments along with under-aged kids, it can be really dangerous to be ingesting secondary smoke (passive smoking), leading to a greater health risk.
Did you know that people consuming cigarettes and tobacco products in public places is actually a punishable offence? In 1986 and 1990, the World Health Organisation (WHO) passed resolutions to ensure the safety and protection of non-smokers from involuntary exposure to harmful tobacco smoke following which, the Government of India initiated the Cigarettes-and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act in 2003. Simply known as COTPA, the act holds certain provisions that put restrictions on the sale of tobacco at certain places like nearby educational institutions. This act also checks on the smoking, sale, advertising, packaging of tobacco products etc.
Smoking in public places is a big “No”
One of the most notable key features of the COTPA is the restrictions on smoking in public places. According to it, smoking in public places is prohibited and is considered a punishable offence, amounting to a penalty to be paid by the offender. These acts are compoundable and are dealt with as per the procedure provided for summary trials in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The government, both Central and State can authorise one or two people to work under the act and these competent authorities can detain a person if the offences he is accused of is proven true. The detained person is then presented before the Magistrate to be judged. Under this category, selling tobacco products within 100 yards radius of any school or educational institution is prohibited. Offering or selling tobacco products to under-aged kids is also prohibited, and in addition, places like hotels, restaurants and airports are to provide separate smoking spaces under various circumstances. These are only the restrictions introduced pertaining to the smoking and sale of tobacco products. Others include the restrictions on the promotion/advertisement of cigarettes and tobacco products. Engaging in the act of promotion and advertisement of tobacco products is a punishable offence under this act. Failing to follow this can lead up to a fine of Rs. 5000 or five years of imprisonment. Another interesting key feature of this act is the regulations on the packaging of cigarettes and tobacco products. Products are to be manufactured and packed with a warning on the package. Repeated violations can cost up to Rs. 10000 penalty or five years of imprisonment.
Young tobacco consumers in Arunachal
Recalling the school days, bathrooms were never usable because of the perennial spitting of the tobacco consuming students. While the sight is always utterly disgusting on its own, it raises an important topic. As per the Global Youth Tobacco Survey 2021 of IIPS under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Arunachal Pradesh along with Mizoram recorded the highest numbers of tobacco users among the school-goers of 13-15 years age group. The data collected shows that around 29.5% of the students were passive smokers. The young students already consuming cigarettes and tobacco-related products at such an age is a matter of grave concern given that the nicotine and tar content of it these products are detrimental to their health. The COTPA stands to eliminate all the possibilities of young students getting exposed to cigarette smoking and other nicotine substances.
A peek into the present scenario
Despite the severe health risks arising out of both primary and passive smoking, the sad reality is that many people in Arunachal aren’t much bothered by the practice of public smoking. The common rationale is that it isn’t worthwhile to point fingers at someone in public ‘just for smoking’. There is a huge communication gap among the people, who aren’t aware of the ill consequences of passive smoking, or about the COTPA in enforcement. The bitter truth is that, despite the act, lax in regulations on the sale & consumption of tobacco products have failed to stop students from getting exposed to these products early on.
However, starting from the 1st of September 2019, the government has made it mandatory to put a new warning picture in the packages of the tobacco products, to paint a bigger picture to the consumers, regarding the harmful consequences that follow. Anti-tobacco messages and campaigns have also been carried out by media platforms to create a strong impact on the minds of the people.
Unfortunately, nothing much has come of it, as consumers still continue to consume tobacco; as they have in the past. On being asked if the pictures and warnings on the package prompt them to quit smoking, one candidly replied saying,” We don’t even pay attention to it.”
Nevertheless, COTPA is a strong initiative taken by the Govt. of India, and strict enforcement of the same is the need of the hour. Meanwhile, the public who are sensible enough about the harmful effects of smoking must take the responsibility of spreading awareness via word-of-mouth. Because non-smokers and young children stand to suffer the most from the exposure of tobacco consumption in public spaces. Proper implementation of the COTPA can be a major boost to Arunachal Pradesh in fighting the menace of intoxicants. These are baby steps, but if approached with sincerity, it will be successful in curving the issue of intoxication. On the other hand, imparting information in public, discouraging public smoking, and collectively ensuring that these products stay out of the reach of under-aged kids, are some equally crucial roles to be played by the public as well. As the saying goes – change starts from within.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Critical Script or its editor.
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