Health Min asks states to consider notifying head constables, municipal officers to collect fines
New Delhi, Oct 27 (PTI) State health departments should consider notifying additional enforcement officers like head constables and municipal officers to impose and collect fines for violation of tobacco rules, the Union Health ministry has said in an advisory.
The letter issued on October 25 by Joint Secretary Vikas Sheel to all principal secretaries noted that India is the third largest tobacco producing nation and second largest consumer of tobacco worldwide.
"Mortality due to tobacco in lndia is estimated al upwards of 1.3 million. One feature of tobacco related mortality in lndia is the high incidence of oral cancer, exceeding even that of lung cancer and accounting for almost half of all oral cancers in the world," he said in the letter.
The letter mentioned that 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.
The emphasis is 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 Article 47 of the Constitution.
As per Section 25 of COTPA, there is a provision for central/state governments to authorise enforcement officials, the letter stated.
Sheel referred to the move by the Himachal Pradesh government of authorising police personnel not below of the rank of head constable "to impose and collect fine" 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," the letter read.
Activists have hailed this move saying it will be helpful in implementing the laws to curtail tobacco use.
Sambandh Health Foundation(SHF) Trustee Sanjay Seth said the 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 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 6 (A) prohibits sale of tobacco products in an area within a radius of 100 yards of any educational institute.