‘Vendor licensing will help curb tobacco addiction among minors’
A wide cross-section of society, including public health experts, educationists, parents and children, have demanded that the state government make vendor licences compulsory for sale of tobacco products so as to restrict their availability to minors.
The demand was made at a presser on Wednesday, organised by the Consortium for Tobacco-Free Karnataka (CFTFK) and the Associated Management of Private Schools in Karnataka (KAMS).
According to speakers at the presser, more than 3,000 letters have been written by students, teachers and parents to Urban Development Minister Byrathi Basavaraj urging quick implementation of the vendor licensing rule. It was pointed out that the Union Health Ministry has asked states to regulate the sales of tobacco products through proper registration of tobacco vendors.
Children are easy prey
In the absence of strict regulation, tobacco products like cigarettes, bidis and chewing tobacco items are being sold at every nook and corner by petty shops, retail stores, milk parlours, tea shops, bakeries, etc. Easy accessibility of tobacco products, especially around educational institutions, is one of the main reasons for tobacco consumption and addiction by youngsters. More than 14.6 per cent of youth (13-15 years of age) use some form of tobacco in India. Every day, more than 5,500 children are initiated into tobacco use.
According to the speakers, vendors who wish to sell tobacco products should obtain a ‘special licence’ apart from their regular ‘trade licence’ from their respective urban local bodies. This will help the ULBs to check violations by the tobacco vendors.
Aditya Hari, a student of Delhi Public School, Bangalore North, said, “We are well aware of the harmful effects of tobacco and yet the tobacco industry has convinced us to consume it. This is a result of a sheer marketing strategy with the youth as a target audience. Introducing vendor licensing will be a major shield against this exploitation.”
Noted oncologist Dr Ramesh Bilimagga, who is advisor to CFTFK, said, “Children are the main target of the tobacco industry. The easy access to tobacco products is luring youngsters to experiment with tobacco and eventually get addicted. Vendor licensing will ensure that tobacco sale is monitored, regulated and keeps youngsters out.”
Shashi Kumar, General Secretary, KAMS, said, “If vendor licensing comes into force, action can be initiated against vendors who are found selling ‘loose’ cigarettes and bidis. In the present set-up, vendors who are selling tobacco products (especially around educational institutions) are getting away with a petty fine.”
SJ Chander, convenor, CFTFK, said, “We appreciate the state government initiating the vendor licensing process…The tobacco industry has been projecting that the livelihood of farmers and vendors would be affected with the introduction of vendor licensing, which is not true.”
States like Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and West Bengal have already implemented vendor licensing.