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Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Road Transport Corporation (JKRTC) has come under scrutiny for endorsing tobacco products, a direct violation of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Product Act (COTPA-2003) in Kashmir.

The advertisement of Vimal Elaichi, previously linked to Vimal Gutkha, a tobacco product, is prominently displayed on JKSRTC buses operating in Srinagar. The advertisements feature prominent celebrities like Akshay Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan, and Ajay Devgan.

Taking action against this blatant violation, the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir (DHSK) has issued a stern letter to the Managing Director of JKSRTC, emphasizing the serious breaches of COTPA-2003.

The letter points out that the advertisement of Vimal Elaichi indirectly promotes V1 tobacco, formerly known as Vimal Gutkha, as the same brand is now used for Vimal Pan Masala. The presence of V1 tobacco pouches being offered with Vimal Pan Masala raises concerns about its surrogate advertisement for tobacco products.

“With reference to the subject cited above, in this connection it is to bring into your kind notice that an advertisement banner of Vimal Elaichi has been displayed over the RTC vehicles of your department for promotional purposes. Which comes under surrogate advertisement of Section 5 of the COTPA Act and is banned under indirect advertisement,” reads a letter issued by DHSK to MD, JKSRTC.

DHSK said that they are deeply concerned about the influence of such endorsements, especially among the youth, and the detrimental impact on public health initiatives.

DHSK highlights the potential violation of the recently issued guidelines under the Consumer Protection Act, further underscoring the gravity of the matter.

“Pertinent to mention here that the Tobacco industry has tried the similar kind of advertisements in past also through different advertising agencies at prominent places of the Srinagar by erecting hoarding, which were immediately removed by the SMC authorities after the intervention of the Health Department,” they said.

Besides that, DHSK has asked all the fleet incharges of the JKRTC to remove the said banners from the RTC vehicles/buses immediately and also take necessary action against the sponsored agency with a warning ‘not to promote any such product” which conflicts with the Section 5 of Cigarette and Other Tobacco Product Act (COTPA-2003).

Dr Mir Mushtaq, State Nodal Officer, National Tobacco Control Program (NTCP) who is also a Spokesperson at Directorate of Health Services Kashmir told Greater Kashmir that it is disheartening to see that JKRTC buses are plying on the roads promoting tobacco products.

“Earlier, SMC also removed the hoarding regarding tobacco products promotion. Similarly, we want JKRTC to remove these tobacco promotion advertisements,” he said.

He said that this is 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, organize any government or private events promoting the banned products," he said.

Dr Mushtaq said that manufacturing, producing or promoting companies are not allowed to promote tobacco products.

Rakesh Kumar Srangal, Managing Director, JKRTC told Greater Kashmir that the department has given a contract to one of the advertising agencies who are looking after the advertisements.

" We are not involved in promoting any brand. But we will take up this issue with the concerned agency and remove such ads promoting tobacco brands," he said.

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