New Delhi: In a blatant violation of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003, vendors are openly selling tobacco products to minors within a radius of 100 yards of educational institutions in the national capital. After a program evaluation under the National Tobacco Control Program (NTCP), the ministry of health and family welfare has now proposed regular scrutiny for compliance of the act across the country.

A study of randomly selected 100 educational institutions was conducted December 2015 in Delhi by the epidemiology division, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), National Tobacco Control Program, Directorate General Health Services (DGHS), ministry of health and family welfare along and World Health Organization (WHO).

Activities related to Section 6 of COTPA around educational institutions, such as the sale of tobacco products within a radius of 100 yards, sale of tobacco products to and by minors, and existence of display boards prohibiting sale of tobacco products were observed using Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled tablet computers preloaded with maps and Open Data Kit software.

“We accessed compliance of Section 6 of COTPA around educational institutions in Delhi. Among the 100 educational institutions surveyed (53 government, 47 private), tobacco products were sold at 43 outlets within a radius of 100 yards of 27 educational institutions. No outlet had a display board prohibiting sale of tobacco products to minors," said Rajesh Yadav from NCDC.

“One outlet sold tobacco products to minors during the period of observation, but sale of tobacco products by minors was not observed. Only 38% of educational institutions displayed board prohibiting tobacco sales; private educational institutions were significantly less likely to display signs prohibiting tobacco sales than government educational institutions," he said.

The study has also been published in the latest issue of International Journal of Preventive Medicine. Although COTPA (2003) and the NTCP have been in existence for many years, health ministry officials said studies from around the country have shown poor compliance of laws for tobacco control in previous years.

Studies in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka and Bihar reported sale of tobacco products within a radius of 100 yards to be in 46%, 57%, 50%, 65%, and 62% of educational institutions, respectively, in 2012-2013. Non-existence of the statutory display boards prohibiting sale of tobacco products outside schools in the states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, and Bihar was reported in 78%, 98%, 82%, 71%, and 93% of educational institutions, respectively, in 2012-2013.

“Similar periodic surveys are required to enable regulatory agencies to enforce COTPA in letter and spirit to control tobacco use," Yadav said.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and premature deaths globally and in India. Tobacco related diseases account for an estimated 6 million deaths globally and 0.8-0.9 million deaths in India each year. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey, India (2009), shows that nearly 35% of adults use tobacco, and the average age at initiation of daily tobacco use is 17.9 years.

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