KOLKATA, 28 NOV: At a time when more than 2,000 people aged 13-25 years have been dying in the city every year due to oral cancer, the school authorities and police are oblivious of the Act that prohibits the sale of any tobacco product near educational institutions.
The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 (Cotpa) prohibits the sale of any tobacco product within 100 yards of any educational institution.
The rule also mandates that institutions put up boards outside their premises, stating that the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products is banned in an area of 100 yards around the institute.
If any vendor is found selling tobacco products near the institute, he/she would have to pay a fine of Rs 200.
However, when questioned how many raids the enforcement branch of the Kolkata Police has conducted since the Act came into force, an officer of the branch said that it was the first time he heard of any such Act and that no raids have been conducted so far. The officers at the control room of the police headquarters in Lalbazar said that they don’t even know which department is supposed to conduct such raids. It may be noted that the Cancer Foundation India (CFI) had conducted two advocacy workshops in May 2010 on tobacco laws in collaboration with the Kolkata Police.
The workshop was attended by 77 senior police officers from the detective department (narcotics).
The objective of the workshop was to sensitise the officers about the provisions of the law and also their role in enforcing it. The first set of chalan and receipt books were distributed during the workshop.
However, despite such moves, police have failed to crack down on vendors selling tobacco products near schools. The vendors target school students during recess and after the school is over.
There are very few schools and colleges that put up boards stating that sale of tobacco products is banned near the institution. While adolescents may be seen puffing cigarettes just near the gate of their schools, in Calcutta University, students could even be seen smoking inside classrooms, not to mention the canteen. Due to the easy availability of tobacco products near schools and colleges, children and adolescents in the state are increasingly becoming an easy prey to oral cancer.
A survey, conducted by the World Health Organisation, states that 15 per cent of students in city schools are addicted to some form of tobacco or the other. Each day, 5,000 kids in India start taking tobacco and about 5 million children below 15 are addicted to it. The executive director of CFI, Dr Soma Roychowdhury, said: “The officers who attended the workshop should have spread awareness among people working under them. If the task force formed at Swasthya Bhavan, state tobacco control cell, formulates a plan for better
implementation of the Act, it would be easier to control the sale of tobacco products,” she said.
India has the highest number of oral cancer patients in the world with 75,000 to 80,000 new cases a year. Chewing tobacco and gutka contributes to 90 per cent of oral cancer cases in the country.