GUWAHATI, March 29 - Tobacco companies are systematically targeting children as young as eight years old in Guwahati by selling tobacco products and placing tobacco advertisements near school premises, reveals the finding of a latest survey that was made public by Consumers' Legal Protection Forum, Assam and Consumer Voice here today.
These egregious tactics, used by companies like British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco or Indian Tobacco Company (ITC) and Philip Morris (Godfrey Philips) are a clear violation of sections 5 and 6 of Cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA).
Consumer Voice and Consumers� Legal Protection Forum, Assam undertook the study in Guwahati, Jorhat and Dibrugarh. Titled �Big Tobacco Tiny Targets�, the study was conducted to determine the extent of tobacco products being marketed and sold around schools in the State. A total sample of 34 schools and 48 points of sale were closely surveyed during the study in Guwahati. Despite the prohibition on sale of tobacco products near educational institutions, numerous shops/vendors/points of sale sell and advertise tobacco products around schools.
Sharing the key findings of the study, advocate Ajoy Hazarika, secretary, CLPF, said 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 per cent 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 per cent carried ITC brands and 53 per cent carried Philip Morris brands.
Investigators observed tobacco advertising at 59 per cent 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 youths. Investigators observed single stick sales in 82 per cent of the 34 tobacco points of sale observed.
Investigators documented that of the 34 tobacco points of sale observed, 53 per cent of the displays were at one metre � a child�s eye level; 56 per cent of the points of sale had no visible health warning; and 38 per cent of the displays were beside candies, sweets and toys � items marketed to children.
There was a panel discussion on �saving young generation from exposure to tobacco products and their use�, where Pratul Phukan, retired 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, retired principal of Sonaram HS School Guwahati and Siddheswar Das, senior team member of Childline Guwahati Branch gave their valuable suggestions on the issue. Dr Arundhuti Deka, Nodal Officer of State Tobacco Control Cell, Govt of Assam spoke on the �Role of Restricting tobacco sales to young people: Policy Advisory on Vendor Licensing�.
Hridaya Pankaj Das, regional coordinator of CLPF emphasised urgent action from government agencies to stop tobacco companies from targeting children from aggressive advertising and selling tobacco products around schools and stricter enforcement of COTPA rules prohibiting sale and advertisement of tobacco products within 100 yards of educational institutions.