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Tobacco panel for increase in the permissible age to 25 from 18

The panel formed by the Union ministry of health and family welfare to review the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, has come out with its suggestions. These include a ban on advertisements of tobacco products at points of sale, banning the sale of loose cigarettes sticks, heftier fines on violations of the Act and increasing the permissible age for buying tobacco products to 25 from 18.

The panel was formed in July. It was led by Ramesh Chandra, advisor at the ministry.

Accordingto the proposed recommendations by the committee the new amended act may be calledthe COTPA2014. It has recommended that sale of loose cigarette sticks ortobacco products in loose should be completely banned as it makes it cheaperand convenient for youngsters to avail themselves of tobacco products.

It hasalso been recommended in the report that the minimum legal age for buyingtobacco products should be increased to 25 years.

At present anyone 18 or abovecan buy tobacco products and cigarettes. If implemented,the move could dent profits of major cigarette companies in India as asubstantial chunk of their consumers are in the age group of 18-25. A Global Adult Tobacco Survey of 2010 conducted among 15 and above, 35 per cent of the adult population in India (15 or above) consume tobacco: 47 per cent of males and 20 per cent of females.

Advertisements of tobacco products in the traditional media are banned in India, afurther ban at point of sale has been recommended by the expert committee. Pont of sale are usually flooded with bannerand poster ads of various tobacco products specially, cigarettes.

The recommendationsby the Chandra led committee further point out to the needs of amending provisionswhich would lead into complete smoking ban from public places to tobacco freepublic space. It has recommended deleting the section 4 of the act which wouldresult into prohibition of smoking into smoking areas of hotels andrestaurants. Whilethe recommendations are surely not going to be favourites among cigarette manufactures ofthe country the fines for violations of the act are going to make it tough forthese companies.

Under section 20 of provisionfor punishment for failure to give specified warning and nicotine and tarcontents, the penalty has recommended to increase the fine to Rs 50,000 fromthe current level of Rs 5000 for first conviction. For smoking in public places,the penalty amount should not be lessthan Rs 200 but which may extend to RS 1,000. Similarly,the penalty for advertisements of tobacco products fine should be ten timesfrom the current level of Rs 1000 for first conviction. For selling tobacco products to a person below the age of 18 thefine should be between Rs 500 -1000, the committee has recommended.

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