The Centre wants to implement a rise in the legal age for consumption of cigarettes and other tobacco products to 21 years from 18 years. The amenity is a part of the new bill by the Union Health Ministry which seeks to amend the existing Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act, 2003.
However, the bill poses a great threat to large cigarette manufacturers such as VST industries, ICT, and Godfrey. The biggest hit is anticipated for ITC, which has expanded over the year but still largely depends on its death-dealing business for 85% of FY20 earnings prior to interest and tax.
The amendment proposed in the bill includes:
– “No person shall sell, offer for sale, or permit the sale of, cigarette or any other tobacco product – (a) to or by any person who is under twenty-one years of age, and in an area within a radius of one hundred meters of any educational institution.”
– Section 7 is being amended to say, “Provided that the trade and commerce in a cigarette or any other tobacco product shall be in sealed, intact and original packaging.”
– It also adds a provision, “No person shall, directly or indirectly, produce, supply or distribute cigarettes or any other tobacco products unless every package of cigarettes or any other tobacco products produced, supplied or distributed by him is having minimum quantity as may be prescribed.”
– Contravention of this Section 7 will lead to imprisonment of two years or fine going up to Rs 1 lakh and second conviction leading to prison for 5 years or fine going up to Rs 5 lakh.
– The bill also has a provision for coming down on the manufacture and sale of illicit cigarettes and tobacco products. The sale of illicit products will lead to a punishment of imprisonment of 1 year and a fine of Rs 50,000 and a second conviction of imprisonment of 2 years and Rs 1 lakh.
– The fine on manufacture of illicit cigarettes is imprisonment of 2 years and fine of Rs 1 lakh.
– The penalty for smoking at restricted areas is being increased from Rs 200 to Rs 2,000.
– The amendment on advertising says, “No person shall directly or indirectly advertise cigarettes or any other tobacco products through any medium and no person shall take part in any advertisement that directly or indirectly promote the use or consumption of cigarettes or any other tobacco products.”
– In the Preamble, after the words “…..take concerted action to eventually eliminate all direct and indirect advertising, promotion and sponsorship concerning tobacco” the words, “AND WHEREAS, India is a signatory to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) adopted in Geneva, Switzerland on 21st day of May 2003 which came into force on the 27th day of February 2005” will be inserted.
“The vast majority of tobacco users began before the age of 21. Rising the tobacco sales age to 21 has the potential to reduce tobacco use initiation and progression to regular smoking. As many as 14 countries — Ethiopia, Guam, Honduras, Japan, Kuwait, Mongolia, Palau, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, USA, and Uganda — have now increased the minimum age to 21 years,” NSLIU(National Law School of India University) Professor Ashok R Patil explained.
However, are these amendments sufficient to reduce the consumption of tobacco in India? In India, illicit trading of tobacco to minors is not a foreign term. School goers are paying for illegal supplies with cash. The goal should be to make tobacco inaccessible. At this moment, enforcing the legislation is going to be difficult work. The lawbreakers are constantly looking for loopholes, to take advantage and gain profit. And raising the age bar is not sufficient enough to break this malicious cycle.