Let's discourage smoking

Health warning labels  on  Cigarettes or Tobacco products  such as Beedis, Chewing Tobacco, Snuff, Gutka, Pan Masala  are mandatory as  pictorial and text; The textual and pictorial components of the health warning together cover 85% of the front and back panels of the tobacco product package, with 25% dedicated to text and 60% dedicated to the picture. There is one photo for the first 12 month rotation period, and another photo for the second 12 month rotation period. “Section 7 of the Cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products Act 2003, read with rules 2008”, mandates that no person shall manufacture, distribute or sell Cigarettes or tobacco Products unless every package of Cigarettes or any Tobacco products bear thereon or its label specified warning including pictorial warning.

Misleading packaging and labeling, including terms such as “light,” and “low-tar” and other signs, is prohibited. The text of the warning is required in white font color on a red background, and the quit-line information is required in white font color on a black background. The text, a pictorial depiction of the ill effects of tobacco use on health is mandated by the rules. The health warning must be located on the top edge of the package. The width of the warning cannot be less than 3.5 centimeters, and the height cannot be less than 4 centimeters.

The specified health warning applicable on tobacco products with effect 1st September 2018 are

  1. One of the key features of the new set of specified health warnings is that it includes telephone Quit-line number “QUIT TODAY CALL 1800-11-2356“. This will help in creating awareness among tobacco users, and give them access to counseling services to effect behavior change. It is also likely to lead to an increase in demand for tobacco cessation. Further, now the same set of warning images shall be on both smoking and smokeless forms of tobacco products.
  2. The toll free Tobacco Quit-line Services (1800-11-2356) provides counseling and strategies for quitting tobacco use. As per the recent second round of Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS -2, 2016-17) conducted in the age group 15 years and above, 61.9% of current cigarette smokers, 53.8% of current bidi smokers and 46.2% of current smokeless tobacco users thought about quitting because of warning label on packets of cigarette, Bidi and Smokeless tobacco.

The Drugs & Food Control organization Jammu and Kashmir is a nodal department for the implementation of Cigarettes & Others Tobacco products Act, wherein Mrs Lotika Khajuria Controller Drugs & Food Control Org is member Secretary of the State Monitoring Committee with principal Secretary Health & Medical Education as its Chairman and Mrs Irfana Ahmed Deputy Controller Drugs & Food Org as liaison officer for Kashmir division. Food Safety Officer of Drugs & Food Control Org J&K stands notified under Section 12 & 13 of the COTPA 2003 and authorized for all legal actions under section 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the Act.

Illegal Cigarettes or the duty-evaded cigarettes enter the Indian markets through sea routes and baggage and courier mode at the airports from countries like the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Indonesia and China then also reaches to various markets of Kashmir valley. The high profit margin has resulted in the frequent smuggling of these foreign cigarettes. Illegal cigarettes circulating in the market of Kashmir valley are Esse lights, Win, Gudan Garam, Marlboro, Camel, Dunhill, Paris, Mond ,Ruili river, etc.,

These illegal cigarettes are cheap, attractive and  do not comply with the excessively large 85% warnings on legal cigarettes, mandated by the government. As a result apart from the aesthetic appeal, this lack of warning creates an impression among the smokers particularly youngsters that these cigarettes are comparatively less hazardous, which makes one believe they are safer than the ones which have an image of a person with throat and lung cancer. So when a smoker comes across a cigarette packet worth Rs 35 to 50, that looks the part, and doesn’t carry any of the graphic statutory warnings on the cover, his eyes light up.

 Taking  note of the severity of the Problem ,Controller Drugs & Food Control Mrs Lotika Khajuria and Deputy Controller Drugs & Food Control Organization Kashmir  Mrs Irfana Ahmed have started a campaign against this menace, wherein the Food Safety Officers of Drugs & Food Control organization  are been  directed to initiate strict legal action against violators. Both these officers are regularly monitoring the working of Field staff in this regard  which has resulted  that around 45 shopkeepers have been prosecuted for selling cigarettes or tobacco products without specified Health warning and Stock of Cigarettes worth more than five lakhs have been seized in district Srinagar. There is decline in the sale of all these brands as frequent inspections and crackdowns are been conducts by the Food Safety Officers to curb this menace.

Sale of cigarettes or tobacco products without specified pictorial health warning is punishable offence under “Section 19 of the Cigarettes & Other Tobacco products Act 2003”. Any person who sells cigarettes having no pictorial health warning shall in the first conviction be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with a fine which may extend to one thousand rupees or both and for the second or subsequent conviction, with a imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend to three thousand rupees while as incase of manufacture if details disclosed by the shopkeeper warning shall in the first convection be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend  t two years or with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees or with both ,and for  second or subsequent convection ,imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees.

All the shopkeepers are advised not to sell such types of cigarettes or tobacco products which doesn’t carry specified Pictorial health warnings  because this may call for prosecution, with imprisonment and fine under the provisions of COTPA 2003.

Let’s join hands together to discourage the smoking and use of other tobacco products to protect our youth …..it is gateway to drug addiction

Shabir Ahmed Lone is Food Safety Officer Srinagar