Cigarettes first tryst with drugs for minors, may lead to other drugs of abuse

Open sale continues outside schools; Experts demand zero tolerance towards COTPA violations
Representational Pic
Representational Pic

Srinagar, Aug 3: Smoking is often seen as the first step towards addiction, leading to the abuse of other drugs.

Shockingly, the sale of cigarettes to minors continues around schools in Kashmir, defying regulations that prohibit such outlets within a 100-meter radius of educational institutions.

The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA)-2003 implementation and enforcement is being carried out by the Department of Food Safety J&K. Commissioner Food Safety, Shakeel-ur-Rehman told Greater Kashmir that the department is working towards ensuring zero tolerance towards sale of tobacco products to minors.

He said that in this regard 73 educational institutions had been inspected this financial year.

Rehman said that in the FY 2022-23, 635 educational institutions were inspected for violation of COTPA 2003.

Interestingly, the data from the department reveals that out of the 73 educational institutions inspected, none was found to have a sale outlet for cigarettes around it.

Resultantly, no fine was imposed and no cases were filed since March onwards this year.

Years ago, in 2008, Global Youth Tobacco Survey: A Report from Jammu and Kashmir was published, the study analysing smoking in the age group of 13 to 15 years. With over 2600 students participating in the study, it was shocking to find that 22.4 percent had already had their first tryst with smoking.

Even at that time, the researchers reported a higher prevalence of smoking among adolescents in Jammu and Kashmir, as compared to other neighboring states.

The latest estimate of smoking among adolescents in Kashmir is a study ‘Tobacco Consumption among Adolescents Attending Schools in District Srinagar, Kashmir’ published in the International Journal of Science and Research. It states that 23 percent of the adolescent participants were identified as smokers. Additionally, the study reported that 18 percent of the surveyed population had initiated smoking during their early teenage years, specifically at the age of 14-15.

A study ‘Nicotine Gateway Effects on Adolescent Substance Use’ published in Western Journal of Emergency Medicine found that that early adolescent nicotine exposure increases the acquisition and intake of nicotine, alcohol, cocaine, and methamphetamine; co-use of nicotine and alcohol; and the rewarding effects of nicotine, cocaine, methamphetamine, and opioids.

“This review (the study) emphasizes the emerging theme that nicotine hijacks the brain’s reward pathway, particularly during adolescence when the brain is rapidly maturing, by inducing long-term changes in brain chemistry and function,” it states.

However, cigarette smoking and the emerging trend of e-cigarettes among adolescents is a ‘norm’ and does not turn heads. The sale of cigarettes outside schools and to minors runs without any qualms in Kashmir, and in most parts of India. The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA)-2003 prohibits smoking in public places. The law also bars selling tobacco to minors near educational institutions. Since pictorial warnings have been mandated on the packaging of cigarettes, there is also a ban on selling of loose cigarettes, so as to maximize exposure to pictorial warnings. Yet, sale of loose cigarettes is prevalent and popular across the districts and more specifically to younger ones who often resort to buying in lesser quantities for various reasons.

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