Tobacco products are sold freely within the yards of educational institutions in Kolkata even as the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) prohibits smoking in public places and sale of cigarette or any other tobacco products to anyone under 18 years of age and in an area within a radius of 100 yards of any educational institutes.
Several shops are selling tobacco products within 100 yards of some reputed schools and colleges here in violation of the COTPA, according to a survey.
According to a study, conducted by an NGO ‘Sambandh Health Foundation’ last month, surveyed 25 educational institutions (21 schools and 4 colleges) in the city and found 17 (68%) were having such shops in nearby areas.
The study was conducted to assess the compliance of the COTPA.
The Centre had enacted the COTPA in 2003 to prohibit smoking in public places (Section 4) and sale of cigarette or any other tobacco products to anyone under 18 years of age and in an area within a radius of 100 yards of any educational institution (Section 6).
Of the 17 educational institutions identified, 47% of them has tobacco products being sold in shops within 16-25 yards of their periphery.
The remaining 53% to have shops selling tobacco at less than 100 yards away, offering young students easy access to the tobacco products, it said.
None of the surveyed institutions has mandatory anti-tobacco signages displayed outside the premises which are required as per Section 4 and 6 of the COTPA, it said.
The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) data released in 2016-17, showed that around 26.7 crore Indians used tobacco in one form or the other and every fifth adult (around 19.5 crores) consumed smokeless tobacco while every tenth adult (10 crores) smoked tobacco.The GATS 2009-10 study in West Bengal had found 2.5 crore (36.3%) of the population aged 15 and above consumed tobacco, of which 1.4 crore smoked cigarettes, bidis and close to 1.5 lakh died prematurely every year due to tobacco-related illnesses.
“It is alarming and agonising that every day a large number of patients visit OPD (outpatient department of hospitals and nursing homes) for treatment of diseases related to use of tobacco and most of them are young people,” a surgeon of the Narayana Superspeciality Hospital Dr Sourav Dutta told PTI.
“The findings of the study raise a very pertinent question whether our little ones are safe from hazardous tobacco in schools and the surrounding areas,” Dutta, also the patron of an NGO Voice of Tobacco Victims (VoTV), said.
A member of the NGO team that conducted the study called for immediate intervention by the West Bengal government to make educational institutions safe for youngsters.