New Delhi: Trade associations across the country have reached out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to intervene into the decision taken by ministry of health and family welfare that the shops authorized to sell tobacco products can’t sell any non-tobacco products that may attract attention of children.
The trade associations have been carrying out demonstrations in various states in India against the decision claiming that their livelihood depends on selling of non-tobacco items of everyday use such as bread, eggs, juices, soft drinks, wafers etc. along with tobacco products.
Around 7.5 milllion traders, retailers and panwallas, selling tobacco products across the country have submitted representations to state governments expressing their concerns.
“As all the products sold by the retailers are legal products, the suggestion, if implemented, will push poor retailers to poverty and instead will benefit hyper-market chains and large organized players," said Jai Bhagwan Gupta from Akhil Bharatiya Pan Vikreta Sangh.
The members of the trade associations also recently met J.P.Nadda, union minister of health & family welfare in Himachal Pradesh. “Any forced reduction in the products sold by us, will have a severe financial impact on us, as we have regular fixed clientele and some of them will permanently leave us, if we are not able to cater to their needs," said Ram Ashrey Mishra, president, Akhil Bharatiya Pan Vikreta Sangh.
The union health ministry had written to all the states and union territories that the regulation of tobacco products should be made more effective. “It will be appropriate to develop a mechanism to provide permission or authorization through municipal authority to the retail shops who are selling tobacco products," the letter dated 21 September, 2017 said.
“Further, it would also be appropriate to make a condition or provision in the authorization that the shops authorized for selling tobacco products, cannot sell any non-tobacco products such as toffees, candies, chips, biscuits, soft drinks etc., which are essentially meant for non-user, especially children," the letter had stated.
Following the decision, Patna, the capital of Bihar, this month issued an order to seek licences from the state government to sell tobacco products.
“Almost in all cases the purchases at the store are made by adults and it can’t be generalized. Sale of Tobacco product to minors is not allowed by the Government and in fact there is a penalty for violation of this regulation," argued Mishra.
“Our members follow this rule strictly. We are all aware of this law and have put up boards prominently in our shops in compliance with current regulations," maintained Mishra.