Srinagar: In violation of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Product Act (COTPA-2003), advertisement boards promoting the use of tobacco products like ‘Vimal Pan Masala’ and ‘Chaini Chaini’ have been erected at Polo View Srinagar and other locations in the city.
These signboards are openly glamorising and encouraging the use of tobacco products, which is a clear violation of the laws put in place to protect public health.
Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), which is responsible for all the hoardings whether on land, water, or buildings within the Srinagar municipal limits seems to be sleeping over the issue.
This comes at a time when the government is making efforts to minimise the consumption of tobacco products in J&K.
As per the National Family Health Survey, NFHS-5, 38.3 percent of the male population and 3.6 percent of the women population consume tobacco products in J&K.
Among tobacco use in J&K, the most common forms are cigarettes (10.4 percent), Hookah (6.3 percent), and Bidi (6.2 percent).
Besides this, J&K is among the top four states and union territories with the highest number of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases, oral and lung cancers patients.
Under the prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution Act (COTPA), 2003, a complete ban is in place for advertising and promotion of tobacco-related products through mass media.
Talking to Greater Kashmir State Nodal Officer, National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP), Dr Mir Mushtaq said that this was a brazen and open violation of Section 5 of COTPA- 2003 Act.
"Section 5 of COTPA-2003 Act is against any direct or indirect advertisements, even sponsorships are not allowed under this act. None is allowed to sponsor or organise any government or private event promoting the banned products. Also, manufacturing, producing, or promoting companies are not allowed to promote tobacco products," he said.
Dr Mushtaq said that ‘Vimal Pan Masala’ and ‘Chaini Chain’ is brand promotion of tobacco products and an indirect advertisement.
He sought a ban on gutka and pan masala alongside a prohibition on their direct and indirect advertisement.
In this regard, Directorate of Health Services Kashmir (DHSK) has sent a letter to the Commissioner, Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) asking him to take action against the advertising agency.
“With reference to the subject cited above, in this connection it is to bring into your kind notice that an advertisement board of Pan Masala (Vimal) at Polo View Srinagar and other places of the city are repeatedly erected by some advertising agency for promotional purpose of Vimal Paan Masala and Chaini Chaini, which is brand promotion of tobacco products and an indirect advertisement under Section 5 of COTPA-2003, which prohibits any kind of advertisement, brand promotion, and sponsorship of tobacco products,” the letter reads.
As per the letter, the advertisement glamorises and promotes the use of tobacco products among the younger generations, which is badly affecting the public health initiatives of the government.
“Therefore, it is requested to take necessary action against the advertising agency with a warning ‘not to promote any such product, which conflicts with the Section 5 of COTPA-2003’. Photos of the said advertisement boards are attached for ready reference,” reads the letter.