BANGALORE, FEBRUARY 17, 2021: With an intention to restrict access of tobacco products to minors, public health experts, educationists, parents and children are demanding the state government to issue ‘vendor license’ order for tobacco sale in Karnataka.
The experts are urging the Urban Development Department (UDD), Government of Karnataka to issue a notification and implement the ‘vendor licensing’ at the earliest. Till date, more than 3,000 letters have been written by students, teachers and parents addressed to the Urban Development Minister Mr Byrathi Basavaraj urging quick implementation of vendor licensing. The Union Health Ministry in its advisory to the states – D O No. P – 16012 /14 /2017 –TC dated 21st September 2017 has asked states to regulate the sales of tobacco products through proper authorization and registration of tobacco vendors.
In the absence of strict regulation, tobacco products like cigarettes, bidis and chewing tobacco items are being sold at every nook and corner of the state by petty shops, retail stores, milk parlours, tea shops, bakeries etc. Tobacco industries illegally advertise products with lighted up boards and posters. The points of sale (POS) of tobacco products use a strategy pushed by the tobacco companies which is placing tobacco products next to the common eatables such as biscuits, candies, chips etc. that children are accustomed to purchasing regularly from these POS.
Easy accessibility of tobacco products especially around educational institutions is one of the main reasons for tobacco consumption and addiction by youngsters. It has been proven that tobacco companies target children as addiction formation takes place in adolescence and they further take advantage of the inability of children to make a rational decision, making to experiment with their products and get addicted to them. More than 14.6 per cent of youth (13-15 years of age) use some form of tobacco in India (GYTS). Accordingly, every day more than 5500 children are initiated into tobacco use.
In a similar fashion, where the sale of liquor is regulated through a license from the State Excise Department, the ‘vendor licensing’ will regulate the sale of tobacco products. Those vendors who wish to sell tobacco products should obtain a ‘special license’, apart from their regular ‘trade license’ from their respective Urban Local Bodies. This will help the ULBs to check violations by the tobacco vendor which is a common phenomenon. Public health experts have been working closely with the Government of Karnataka’s Urban Development Department for the implementation of ‘vendor licensing’ which can stop the easy availability of tobacco products and put an end to the tactics of luring the youngsters.
“We are well aware of the harmful effects of tobacco and yet the tobacco industry has convinced us to consume it as an exigency. 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 and is necessary for the constructive future of this country”, said Aditya Hari, a 12th standard student at Delhi Public School, Bangalore North.
“Children are the main target of the tobacco industry. The easy access to tobacco products is luring the youngsters to experiment with tobacco and eventually get addicted to it. This is very dangerous and there is an immediate need to keep the younger generations away from tobacco products. Vendor licensing is one of the bold steps of the state government which will ensure that the tobacco sale is monitored, regulated and keeps youngsters out” said Renowned Oncologist Dr Ramesh Bilimagga, who is the Advisor of Consortium for Tobacco Free Karnataka (CFTFK).
Mr Shashi Kumar, General Secretary, Associated Management of Private School in Karnataka (KAMS) said “We are happy to know that the state government is coming up with vendor licensing. 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 education institutions) by breaking the rules are getting away with a petty fine. There are provisions in the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003, where the vendor’s license can also be cancelled if he is found guilty”.
“We appreciate the state government for initiating vendor licensing process. We urge the government to make it a reality soon. We request the parents, teachers and other concerned about child rights to extend their support by writing letters to UDD as 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”, said Mr S J Chander, Convenor, CFTFK.
Already states like Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and West Bengal have set a role-model by implementing vendor licensing.