Let's Talk Guwahati: Minors have easy access to alcohol, tobacco; feel 46% Guwahatians
GUWAHATI: At least 46% Guwahatians feel that minors have free access tobacco and alcohol in the city without any regulations to keep a check on this.
This was revealed during a month-long survey conducted by G Plus titled 'Let's Talk Guwahati' in which close to a sample size of 10000 citizens took part through an online as well as offline medium from different parts of the city.
On the other hand, only 29.4% respondents felt that there are some regulations in place to check easy availability of tobacco and alcohol by the district authorities. Further, 23.8% respondents remained neutral and voted for the ‘can’t say’ option.
In Guwahati, despite a ban on the sale of tobacco products within a 100-yard radius outside educational institutions, one can find several shops selling cigarettes and other tobacco products outside schools and colleges in the city.
The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA) which was enacted in 2003, prohibits sale of any tobacco products or cigarette to anyone below 18 years of age and in an area within a radius of 100 yards of any educational institution. It also prohibits smoking in public places.
“There are plenty of stalls filled with tobacco and gutka on the roads right outside schools and some elder students can be seen buying from such stalls,” said a parent of a class 6 student studying in a private school in Pan Bazar.
On the other hand, expressing her concern over the matter, chairperson of the Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) Sunita Changkakoti termed the issue as a “serious concern” and said that there is a need for proper monitoring to check the sale of pan masala and other tobacco products to minors.
She added that the ASCPCR conducts talks with school authorities in the city from time to time and flags this issue.
“A few months ago, we had visited a school and empty found packets of pan masala lying around near the toilets. We immediately took up the issue with the school authorities and asked them to ensure that no shops sell tobacco products outside schools and to counsel students,” said Changkakoti.
Authorities working in the field of child protection have called for a better implementation of the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015. It states stricter penalty for those selling cigarettes, beedi and chewable tobacco to minors and mentions a jail term of seven years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh.
Dr. Amal Chandra Kataki, director of Dr. B Borooah Cancer Institute had met with Governor Jagdish Mukhi last month and urged him to intensify tobacco control initiative in the state. Dr. Kataki said that they are witnessing a rise in the number of youngsters with health issues related to the consumption of tobacco.
They have also appealed to the Governor to undertake an initiative to make all the educational institutes of the state a tobacco-free zone.