Bengaluru: Welcoming the Union health ministry’s announcement banning sale of loose cigarettes and increasing the minimum age of individuals to whom tobacco products can be sold, onclogists and other health experts say both moves are bound to have a far reaching impact on tobacco use in Karnataka.
But they urge the Union government not to stop with this, but come out with a comprehensive action plan to bring down tobacco use and ban tobacco products that can be chewed.
"The government has done the right thing as cigarette vendors and tobacco manufacturers primarily target those between 10 and 20 years old. The age limit now introduced on those who can buy tobacco products and the ban on the sale of loose cigarettes will act as a huge deterrent," says Dr Vishal Rao, senior consultant, and surgical oncologist, head and neck, Department of Surgical Oncology, BGS Global Hospital.
"With loose cigarettes the major problem is that it they do not come with a statutory warning or a representation. So this is really great news," he adds. Dr Riyaz, professor, Department of Community Medicine, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI), says sale of loose cigarettes violates the existing laws which clearly lay down that any tobacco product sold should come with a statutory health warning. “The ban is definitely in sync with the existing laws,” he adds.
But emphasizing that this can be only the first step, Mr. Rajiv Acharya, a sociologist working with several NGOs on health related issues, says that if the government is really committed to eliminating tobacco use, it must ensure that chewing tobacco too is banned with immediate effect.
“But unfortunately the Centre may take another three to four years to ban chewing tobacco, which has a strong lobby working for it,” he regrets, noting that government support for tobacco and arecanut growers is another grey area that needs to be tackled with urgency.