GUWAHATI, Oct 28 - The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has sent an advisory to all Principal Secretaries of the State Health departments to consider notifying head constables, municipal officers, etc, as additional enforcement officers to impose and collect fines under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (prohibition of advertisement and regulation of trade and commerce, supply and distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA).
The letter was issued on October 25, in which Vikas Sheel, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, mentioned that India is the third largest tobacco-producing nation and the second largest consumer of tobacco worldwide.
Mortality due to tobacco in India is estimated at 1.3 million (13.5 lakh) annually. One feature of tobacco usage in the country is the high incidence of oral cancers, exceeding even that of lung cancer and accounting for almost half of all oral cancers in the world.
The Central government has enacted the COTPA to discourage the use of tobacco with an emphasis on protection of children and young people from getting addicted to tobacco with a view to achieving improvement of public health in general as enshrined in Article 47 of the Constitution of India.
As per Section 25 of COTPA, there is a provision for Central/State governments to authorise enforcement officials. Police officers, not below the rank of sub-inspectors, have been authorised to take action in violation of Sections 4 and 6 of COTPA.
However, there is a provision in the Act for Central or State authorities to authorise other persons concerned to fine offenders. Anti-tobacco activists say that in order to strengthen the COTPA enforcement campaign in the country, states may consider notifying additional enforcement officers to impose and collect fines for violation of Sections 4 and 6 of COTPA in letter and spirit.
Hailing this move, Sambandh Health Foundation (SHF) trustee Sanjay Seth said the number of head constables is four times more than the sub-inspectors, and �this advisory will greatly help strengthen the implementation of COTPA�.
Dr Ashok Das, a cancer expert and the State patron of the Voice of Tobacco Victims (VOTV), said, �It is a proven fact that tobacco is a major killer and this decision of the Central government will certainly curtail the use of tobacco in public places and create awareness.�