Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, May 09, 2005
Industry & Economy - Health
Marketing - Advertising
Tobacco control law: Where's the sting?
New Delhi , May 8
IMPLEMENTATION of the Tobacco Control Legislation has been as tough as kicking the nicotine addiction.
Though the hoardings featuring the Marlboro man or the Wills `Made for Each other' couple have come down, a year since the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003 came into effect, advocacy groups feel that much needs to be done to ensure proper implementation of the law.
According to Ms Monika Arora, Director of an anti-tobacco advocacy group Hriday-Shan, "The enactment of an anti-tobacco legislation is commendable, but violations continue."
She said that while show-cause notices have been issued against companies that violate the Act by launching brand extensions or promotions, little is being done to tackle the problem of smoking in public areas or sale of tobacco products to minors. "The enforcement agencies do not take people who report these violations seriously either," she added.
Ms Arora also pointed out that cigarette brands are being placed prominently in Bollywood films and companies also violate the specifications of the Act on point-of-sale by mounting sign boards of sizes much higher than permissible.
Mr Vincent Nazareth, Chairman, Crusade Against Tobacco, said that there is growing concern about smuggled cigarettes. "Brands like Aziz Gold, Winston, Pine Lights and Davidoff Classic are now available at local kiosks. But neither do these contain the statutory warning nor are details regarding maximum retail price, date of manufacture, name and address printed on the packs."
Apart from plugging the loopholes, the implementation of the Act itself requires the co-ordination of various ministries, officials in the Health Ministry pointed out.
"For instance, we have to work with the Railway Ministry to ensure that necessary boards are displayed at railway platforms, train compartments and other places. Similar meetings have been held with the Ministries of Surface Transport, Civil Aviation, Tourism, Human Resource and Development and others," said a Government official.
Though there is a committee under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to look into advertisements, the Health Ministry has already set up a separate screening committee to look into surrogate advertisement of tobacco products in a wider perspective and ensure effective implementation of the Act. State Governments too have been asked to set up Anti-Tobacco Cells.
Despite these steps, officials agreed that loopholes still remain. "The Central Film Certification Board has to be sensitised to prevent display of scenes that show characters in film and television channels using cigarettes and other tobacco products. There should be more campaigns to educate people about the ill-effects of tobacco consumption," they said.
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