A plea has been moved in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Centre to ban the sale of loose cigarettes, increase the age of smoking from 18 to 21 years, and also come up with plans to tackle smoking addiction.
The plea, moved by advocates Shubham Awasthi and Sapta Rishi Mishra, said the rate of smoking has been growing since the last two decades and it has grown into such an epidemic that India now ranks second in the smoker’s category for the 16-64 age group.
“That a study published in the Journal of Nicotine and Tobacco Research has flagged the severe economic burden of second-hand smoke exposure in India. The study revealed that second hand smoke causes Rs 567 billion in health care costs annually. This accounts for eight per cent of total annual health care expenditure, on top of Rs 1,773 billion in annual economic burden from tobacco use,” said the plea.
The plea said the young people are getting addicted to smoking tobacco products to either look cool or under peer pressure. “They see adults smoking and it becomes a rite of passage or their inducement to initiate smoking to show that they are matured now,” it added.
The plea contended that human right principles can also be invoked to justify protecting individuals from the harms of active smoking. “Most smokers start before adulthood, at a time when the capacity for rationalised, long-term decision-making is not yet fully developed. Many adolescents are lured into cigarette smoking as a rite of passage into adulthood, usually through their peers, unable to fully conceive of the addictive grip of nicotine, and the health impacts they will later experience”, it added.
The petitioners sought a direction to increase the smoking age from 18 to 21, ban on sale of loose cigarettes, and also directions for removal of shops selling cigarettes near educational institutions, public buildings, places of worship etc.
The plea sought guidelines and directions for closing the dedicated smoking zones at airports, clubs, restaurants, hotels, public places and even in private properties being used for commercial purposes in a phased manner so as not to induce smoking among non-smokers.