Ban the sale of single cigarettes


    In News

    • Recently, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare, in its report on cancer management, prevention and diagnosis, has recommended a ban on the sale of single sticks of cigarettes.


    • Objective of Report: 
      • The measures endeavour to curb consumption as well as the accessibility of tobacco products, including cigarettes.  
    • Key Findings: 
      • Tobacco consumed in different ways accounts for nearly 50% of all cancers, collectively referred to as tobacco-related cancers — which can be prevented. 
      • Pointing to the National Health Policy’s (2017) endeavour for a relative reduction in current tobacco use by 30% in 2025, it was suggested that it is imperative that the government take effective measures to contain the sale of tobacco products. 
      • India has the lowest prices for tobacco products and therefore it is important to increase taxes on them. 
      • These measures flow from the observation that oral cancer accounts for the highest proportion of cancer cases in the country. 
      • In India, more than 80% of tobacco consumption is in the form of chewing tobacco with or without areca nuts, aggressively marketed as a mouth freshener. 
    • Issue with single stick cigarettes:
      • Single sticks are more economical to acquire than a full pack of cigarettes. 
      • It particularly appeals to adolescents and youth who have limited money in hand. 
      • Single sticks are also preferred by people who may want to take it up for experimentation and have not started smoking on a regular basis.  
      • Single stick sales, owing to their easier accessibility and affordability, can also work as a disincentive to quit smoking.

    Consequences of  Tobacco Consumption

    • Health Effects:
      • Tobacco has physical impacts on almost every body part and their functions and increases the risk of cancers, heart diseases and other fertility and reproduction-related problems.
      • Smokers face a 40-50 percent higher risk of developing severe disease deaths from Covid-19.
      • Passive smoking or second-hand smoke threatens the health of those who do not smoke.
    • Environmental effects: According to the WHO
      • 600 million trees are chopped down annually to make cigarettes, 
      • 84 million tonnes of CO 2 emissions are released into the atmosphere, 
      • 22 billion litres of water are used to make cigarettes. 
      • Hazardous substances like arsenic, lead, nicotine and formaldehyde have been identified in cigarette butts, which leach into aquatic environments and soil.
      • Unlike cigarette butts, e-cigarette waste cannot biodegrade even under severe conditions. 
    • Negative Social consequences:
      • Tobacco use has negative social consequences as it affects social interactions and relationships negatively.
    • Financial Burden:
      • It adds to the financial burden as smokers burn through an average of USD 1.4 million in personal costs, including spending on cigarettes and associated medical costs.
    • Involvement of Child Labour and farmers’ exploitation:
      • The tobacco industry exploits farmers and children and deteriorates growers’ health as they are exposed to ill health by nicotine that is absorbed through the skin, as well as exposure to heavy pesticides and tobacco dust.

    Global Reduction Efforts

    • Director General’s Special Recognition Awards:
      • Every year, WHO recognizes individuals or organizations in WHO Regions for their accomplishments in the area of tobacco control.
        • Indian Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has been conferred the award for his efforts to control tobacco consumption in India along with National legislation to ban e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, in 2019.
    • WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC):
      • It provides a strong, concerted response to the global tobacco epidemic and its enormous health, social, environmental and economic costs.
      • To help countries implement the WHO FCTC, WHO introduced the MPOWER technical package to support the implementation of key strategies, such as raising tobacco taxes, creating smoke-free environments and offering help to quit.
      • FCTC’s measures to combat tobacco use include price and tax measures, large, graphic warnings on tobacco packages, 100 per cent smoke-free public spaces, ban on tobacco marketing, etc.
    • Global Youth Tobacco Survey: 
      • It is a self-administered, school-based survey of students in grades associated with 13 to 15 years of age designed to enhance the capacity of countries to monitor tobacco use among youth and to guide the implementation and evaluation of tobacco prevention and control programs.
    • United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)
      • It has both the WHO and the Secretariat of the WHO FCTC as leading participants, has crafted a Model policy for UN agencies on preventing tobacco industry interference, a strong policy to prevent industry tactics operating in the UN and then ensured its implementation at the intergovernmental level.
    • Firewall by WHO:
      • In 2007, WHO established a firewall in 2007 to protect policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.
    • The United Nations Global Compact followed suit, banning the tobacco industry from participation in 2017, flagging the problematic and irreconcilable conflicts between the goals of the UN and an industry that is responsible for more than 8 million deaths per year.
    • Other Steps:
      • In 2008, the UN General Assembly adopted a Resolution for Smoke-free United Nations Premises.
      • In 2012, the United Nations Economic and Social Council called for “system-wide coherence on tobacco control”.

    Efforts Taken in India

    • Cigarettes Act, 1975: 
      • Tobacco control legislation in India dates back to the Cigarettes Act, 1975 which mandates the display of statutory health warnings in advertisements and on cartons and cigarette packages.
    • Delhi Prohibition of Smoking and Non-Smokers Health Protection Act: 
      • It was passed in the Delhi assembly in 1997 and became the model for Central Legislation banning smoking in public places in 2002, on the directions of the Supreme Court.
    • Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade, Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA) 2003:
      • The comprehensive tobacco control legislation aims to provide smoke-free public places and also places restrictions on tobacco advertising and promotion.
    • Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Bill, 2019: 
      • It prohibits production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertisement of e-cigarettes. 
    • Tobacco Quitline Services: 
      • These are toll-free quitline services available in 16 languages and other local dialects from 4 centres.
    • National Health Policy 2017: 
      • It sets an ambitious target of reducing tobacco use by 30 percent by 2025, which has been devised keeping in view the targets for control of NCDs.
    • Ratification of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
    • National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP)
      • Launched by The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 
      • Currently, the Programme is being implemented in all States/Union Territories covering over 600 districts across the country.
      • Objectives:
        • To bring about greater awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use and Tobacco Control Laws.
        • To facilitate effective implementation of the Tobacco Control Laws.
    • Tax on Tobacco:
      • Tobacco products fall in the highest GST slab of 28% as it attracts a heavy cess.
      • The total tax burden as a percentage of the final tax-inclusive retail price is about 52.7% for cigarettes, 22% for bidis and 63.8% for smokeless tobacco.
      • Recently, the government set up a panel to prepare a comprehensive tax policy proposal covering all tobacco products from a public health perspective.

    Impact of Single Stick Ban

    • In the absence of a vendor licensing regime, the ban on single sticks might not be very effective
    • Also, it is not feasible to enforce a pan-India ban on the sale of loose cigarettes.
    • Banning it may give rise to the use of illegal cigarettes, benefitting only the parallel economy.
    • As for tackling addiction, because cigarettes would not be available everywhere, the potential for recurrence of consumption would reduce
    • While it would be difficult to rescue people who are highly addicted, those less addicted can be rescued.  

    Way Ahead

    • Imposing Ban: 
      • The government should levy a ban on the sale of single sticks of cigarettes. 
      • A ban is sought on gutka and pan masala alongside a prohibition on their direct and indirect advertisement.
      • A ban on single-stick sales would compel a potential consumer to buy the entire pack which may not be particularly economical, thus curbing potential experimentation and the scope for regular intake. 
    • Increasing Taxes: 
      • The government should increase taxes on all tobacco products and utilise the acquired revenue for cancer prevention and awareness.
    • Vendor Licensing:
      • Notwithstanding that the proposed move would reduce consumption and sales, the government must also consider instituting vendor licensing.
    • Promoting smoke-free policy:
      • The government abolished all designated smoking areas in airports, hotels and restaurants in addition to encouraging a smoke-free policy in organisations. 

    World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tobacco

    • It has been observed that all forms of tobacco are harmful, and there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco. 
    • It also states that smoking cigarettes are the most common way of tobacco use worldwide. 
    • By 2030, 7 million annual deaths from smoking are expected to be from low and middle-income countries. 
    • The tobacco industry is targeting young people in low and middle-income countries to replace those dying from smoking-related causes.
    • Nicotine in tobacco products is highly addictive, and without cessation support only 4% of users who attempt to quit tobacco consumption will succeed.

    Source: TH