India bans sale of cigarettes to children
NEW DELHI (Reuters Health) - Intensifying its onslaught against smoking, the Delhi government has banned the sale of cigarettes, rolled leaf beedis used for smoking, and similar substances to persons younger than 18 years. Sales of these items have been b
The Delhi government was forced to act after a public interest writ petition in the Delhi High Court charged it with nonimplementation of the Smoking and Non-Smoker Health Protection Act, passed in 1997. The petition charged that the government was not implementing the sections of the Act relevant to keeping tobacco products away from children and adolescents.
According to Delhi's health minister Dr. A. K. Walia, the ban on tobacco sales to children will come into effect immediately, and the ban on sales near educational institutions will come into effect in January 2001. Police have been given the power to implement these provisions. Violators could be fined between 500 and 1000 rupees and sentenced to up to 3 months' imprisonment.
``Tobacco smoking is increasing significantly among children and is a serious cause of concern,'' Monika Arora, from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, told Reuters Health.
Arora and colleagues studied the smoking behavior of more than 4500 children, ages 11 to 14 years, in Delhi's 30 schools and found that without behavior modification or health education interventions, nearly 8.5% children experimented with smoking. ``We noted the mean age for intervention is 12 years,'' Arora told Reuters Health. ``There is (a) rapid rise in smoking from 15 years onwards,'' she added. The data were presented last month at the 11th World Conference on Tobacco or Health, in Chicago.
``Health education interventions do make a difference, but the tobacco industry's targeting of the youth in the developing world needs to be resisted tooth and nail in the interest of their health,'' Arora said.
WHO data indicate that by 2020, tobacco will be solely responsible for 1.5 million deaths in India, or 13.3% of all deaths in the country, said Dr. Harsh Vardhan, former health minister of Delhi and a consultant with the WHO-Southeast Asia Region. Goa and Delhi states have already enacted legislation curbing tobacco.
India's health minister Dr. C. P. Thakur stated earlier this month that his government is contemplating legislation to ban smoking in government offices and to control tobacco use nationwide.