New Delhi: Continuing its fight against tobacco consumption, India could ban the sale of loose cigarettes and increase the minimum age of a person to whom tobacco products can be sold.
The matter would be presented before the union cabinet soon and a draft note has already been circulated for inter-ministerial consultation, Health Minister J.P. Nadda informed the Rajya Sabha Tuesday.
The cabinet note comes after recommendations were made by a committee formed by the ministry, to review Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA), Nadda said in a written reply.
He said the expert panel has recommended “prohibition on sale of loose or single stick of cigarette, increasing the minimum legal age for sale of tobacco products, increasing the fine or penalty amounts for violation of certain provisions of the Act as well as making such offences cognizable”.
The ministry has accepted the committee’s recommendations and a draft note for the cabinet has been circulated for inter-ministerial consultation, the minister said.
The move comes close on the heels of the government deciding to make it mandatory for tobacco companies to devote 85 percent space on packets of cigarettes and other tobacco products to warn against the ill effects of tobacco consumption.
Till now, tobacco companies were required to devote only 40 percent of the space on packets to pictorial warnings against tobacco use.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) framework convention on tobacco control, of which India is a signatory, states that countries “shall endeavour” to prohibit such sales as it makes them more affordable for minors.
Another important recommendation of the panel is that the fine for smoking in public should be increased to a whopping Rs. 20,000 from the present Rs. 200, a senior health ministry official said.
It has also suggested that the minimum age for consumption of tobacco products be increased to 25 years from 18.
The panel has also recommended that public smoking be made a cognisable offence, meaning that a person caught smoking in public can be prosecuted in a court of law.