The Consortium for Tobacco Free Karnataka (CFTFK) has demanded the Karnataka government to expedite the process to introduce a vendor licensing system to sell tobacco products in the state.
As part of the CFTFK's campaign, students from schools had also participated in the program to appeal to the state government to expedite the vendor licensing process in the state.
Aditya Hari, a Class 12 student from Delhi Public School, Bangalore North, told the media that although they are well aware of the harmful effects of tobacco yet the tobacco industry flourishes.
"This is a result of a sheer marketing strategy with the youth as a target audience. Introducing vendor licensing will be a major shield against this exploitation and is necessary for the constructive future of this country," he said.
Hari also appealed to parents, teachers and students from across the state to write letters to state Urban Development Minister Byrathi Basavaraj urging him quick implementation of vendor licensing norms across the state.
He added that already 3,000 parents, teachers, and students have written letters demanding the implementation of this new system to address the minister.
Hari also pointed out that the Union Health Ministry in its advisory to States on September 21, 2017, had called for regulating the sale of tobacco products through proper authorization and registration of tobacco vendors.
"This has remained a mirage since then in Karnataka. But I am happy that the vendor licensing system has come into effect in states like Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and West Bengal, at least our friends in these states are safe," he quipped.
While Class 8 student, Mokshit from Nava Bharatha Nirmana Vidya Mandira appealed to parents to act responsibly in front of their children. "Parents should stop sending their children to buy cigarettes or tobacco products besides completely stop smoking in front of their children," he said.
He added that this is the first step where a child gets attracted to smoking and he will know where that item is available for his consumption, so, I want parents to act more responsibly.
More than 14.6 per cent of youth between 13 to 15 years are using some form of tobacco
According to renowned Oncologist Ramesh Bilimagga, who is also the Advisor of CFTFK told reporters that with more than 14.6 per cent of youth between the age of 13 to 15 years are using some form of tobacco in India.
"The easy access to tobacco products is luring the youngsters to experiment with tobacco and eventually get addicted to it. This is very dangerous and there is an immediate need to keep the younger generations away from tobacco products. Vendor licensing is one of the bold steps of the state government which will ensure that the tobacco sale is monitored, regulated and keeps youngsters out," he argued.
The oncologist added that easy accessibility of tobacco products especially around educational institutions is one of the main reasons for tobacco consumption and addiction by youngsters.
"It has been proven that tobacco companies target children as addiction formation takes place in adolescence and they further take advantage of the inability of children to make rational decision making to experiment with their products and get addicted to them. As a result of this, every day more than 5,500 children are initiated into tobacco use," he explained.
The CFTFK convenor, S.J. Chander said that in absence of strict regulation, tobacco products like cigarettes, bidis and chewing tobacco items are being sold at every nook and corner of the state by petty shops, retail stores, milk parlours, tea shops and bakeries.
"Tobacco industries illegally advertise products with lighted up boards and posters. The points of sale (POS) of tobacco products use a strategy pushed by the tobacco companies which is placing tobacco products next to the common eatables such as biscuits, candies, chips etc. that children are accustomed to purchasing regularly from these POS," he alleged.
He contended that the tobacco industry has been projecting that the livelihood of farmers and vendors would be affected with the introduction of vendor licensing, which is not true.
Chander added that those vendors who wish to sell tobacco products should obtain a 'special license', apart from their regular 'trade license' from their respective Urban Local Bodies.
"This will help the ULBs to check violations by the tobacco vendor which is a common phenomenon and it would not affect their livelihood in any which way," he said.