Guwahati: Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, Assam along with Consumer Voice organized a State Level stakeholders’ workshop here in Guwahati today to release the findings of a new report that revealed tobacco companies are systematically targeting children as young as eight years old in Guwahati by selling tobacco products and placing tobacco advertisements near schools premises.
These egregious tactics, used by companies like British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco or Indian Tobacco Company (ITC), Philip Morris (Godfrey Philips) are a clear violation of Section 5 and 6 of Cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products Act. Despite the prohibition on sales of tobacco products near educational institutions, numerous shops/vendors/points of sale sell & advertise tobacco products around schools.
Consumer Voice and Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, Assam undertook this study in Guwahati, Jorhat and Dibrugarh. This study titled, “Big Tobacco Tiny Targets” was conducted to determine the extent of tobacco products being marketed and sold around schools in State. A total sample of 34 schools and 48 points of sale were closely surveyed during this study in Guwahati. Sharing the key findings of the study Advocate Ajoy Hazarika, Secretary, CLPF says nearly half of the vendors around schools sell tobacco products.
(Investigators observed 34 points of sale selling tobacco products out of the 48 surveyed around schools. Street and Mobile vendors were the most common form of vendors at 71% of the 34 tobacco points of sale observed.).
Multinational tobacco companies sell tobacco products around schools. (Investigators documented that, of the 34 tobacco points of sale observed, 82% carried ITC brands and 53% carried Phillip Morris. Vendors advertise tobacco products around schools. (Investigators observed tobacco advertising at 59% of the 34 tobacco points of sale observed.). Vendors sell cigarettes and bidis via single sticks, making these products cheap and accessible to children and youth. (Investigators observed single stick sales in 82% of the 34 tobacco points of sale observed). Vendors display tobacco products in ways that are appealing to children and youth.
(Investigators documented that, of the 34 tobacco points of sale observed, 53% of displays were at 1 meter – a child's eye level; 56% of the points of sale had no visible health warning; and 38% of displays were beside candy, sweets and toys – items marketed to children.) There was a panel discussion on ‘saving young generation from exposure to tobacco products & their use’ where Pratul Phukan, Rtd. DIG, Assam Police; Dr. Srabana Misra Bhagabaty, Associated Professor cum In-Charge Department of Preventive Oncology, Dr. B. BOROOAH CANCER INSTITUTE; Ravi Shankar Ravi, Editor, Dainik Purvoday; Dwijendra Nath Borthakur, Retd. Principal of Sonaram H.S School, Guwahati; and Siddheswar Das, Senior Team Member, Childline, Guwahati Branch gave their valuable suggestions on the issue. Dr Arundhuti Deka, State Nodal Officer, State Tobacco Control Cell, Govt. of Assam speaking on the “Role of Restricting tobacco sales to young people: Policy Advisory on Vendor Licensing.” Hridaya Pankaj Das, Regional Coordinator, CLPF in his presentation emphasized on urgent action from the Government agencies to stop tobacco companies from targeting children from aggressive advertising & selling tobacco products around schools and stricter enforcement of COTPA rules prohibiting the selling and advertising of tobacco products within 100 yards of educational institutions.