Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has sent an Advisory to all Principal Secretaries of State health departments to consider notifying head constables, municipal officers etc as additional enforcement officers to impose and collect fines under Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act. (COTPA)
The letter was issued on October 25 in which Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Joint Secretary, Mr Vikas Sheel, mentioned that India is the third largest tobacco producing nation and second largest consumer of tobacco worldwide. Mortality due to tobacco in India is estimated at upwards of 1.3 million (13.5 lakhs) annually. One feature of tobacco usage in India 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 Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (prohibition of advertisement and regulation of trade and commerce, supply and distribution) Act 2003 (COTPA), to discourage the use of tobacco, with emphasis on protection of children and young people from being addicted the use of tobacco with a view to achieve improvement of public health in general as enshrined in the article 47 of the constitution.
As per section 25 of COTPA, there is provision for central/state governments to authorise enforcement officials. Police officers, not below the rank of sub inspectors of police have been authorised to by the Act to take action in violation of section 4 and section 6 of COTPA 2003. However there is provision in the Act for Central or State Authorities to authorise other persons and designations to fine offenders.
Further, state government of Himachal Pradesh has authorised the police personnel not below of the rank of head constable to impose and collect fine into compound the offence under section 4 and 6 of COTPA in the respective jurisdiction in addition to the persons authorised.
In this background and in order to strengthen COTPA enforcement campaign in the country, It would be appropriate that the States may consider notifying additional enforcement officers viz head constables, municipal officers etc, to impose and collect the fine against the violation of section 4 and 6 of the COTPA, 2003 in letter and spirit .
Sambandh Health Foundation(SHF) Trustee, Sanjay Seth, hailing this move, said number of head constables is four times more than the sub inspectors and this advisory will greatly help in strengthening the implementation of COTPA.
He said sub inspectors have lot of responsibilities including investigation of cases, attending cases in court and others so by authorising head constables will really prove helpful as more force will be available for COTPA implementation.
Voice of Tobacco Victims(VOTV) patron and cancer expert from Manipal Hospital,
Dr Vedant Kabra said “it is a proven fact that tobacco is a major killer and this decision of the central government will certainly help in curtailing use of tobacco in public places and will create awareness.
Under section 4 of COPTA smoking is prohibited in public places, and section 6 prohibits sale to /by minors, Sec 6a prohibits sale of tobacco products in an area within a radius of 100 yards of any educational institute.