Marketing of tobacco products to people, especially youth has been well documented in various national and international reports. In India, Section 5 of The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 or COTPA, 2003 prohibits any direct or indirect advertisement of tobacco products. However, despite many efforts by the Union and the state government of Rajasthan, the marketing of tobacco products is still prevalent and is a matter of deep concern for the public health advocates.
The Global Adult Tobacco Survey India (GATS 2) indicated that 28.6%, around 267 million adults consume tobacco in some form in India. In Rajasthan, 24.7% of all adults consume tobacco in some form or the other.
In Rajasthan, there are issues related to smoking among youth, the rise of smokeless tobacco use among youth and exposure to tobacco product advertisement or surrogate advertisement are a matter of deep concern. These advertisements are generally noticed at point of sale, and on public transport, etc. Section 5 of COTPA-2003 clearly prohibits any direct or indirect advertisement of tobacco products but tobacco companies have resorted to various other marketing tactics such as surrogate advertising along with promotion and sponsorship tactics for major events such as dandiya nights, marathons and more.
Government of Rajasthan has done remarkable work in order to protect youth from exposure to tobacco products. Hookah Bar or hookah as any eatery is banned as per the amendment in COTPA Act (Rajasthan State) dated 16/01/2020. It says no person shall, either on his own or on behalf of any other person, open or run any hookah bar in any place including the eating house.
COVID 19 and Tobacco Use
In view of the increasing danger of the coronavirus pandemic, spitting in a public place, sale and purchase of pan masala and smokeless tobacco were banned by the state of Rajasthan as the lockdown was introduced. However, the ban was lifted on 25.05.2020 by the state government (one of the first state to lift the ban). After permission to sell tobacco products, the tobacco industry resumed its advertisement campaigns and violation of Section 5 can be easily seen in the state. The Rajasthan Epidemic Diseases Ordinance, 2020 was released exclusively prohibiting use of tobacco, pan masala, gutka, etc in public places which ensure the ban on the use of tobacco products in a public place and clearly indicate offenders with a fine of INR 200 and INR 500 respectively.
The Rajasthan government and Department of Medical, Health and Family welfare are using various modes to ensure community awareness on educating the public on the harms of tobacco use. Some districts have launched innovative campaigns such as in Kota where the district introduced selfie corners that contains information about the ban imposed and ill effect of tobacco use. Youngsters in the district are actively participating and they can be regularly seen uploading the pics on their social media pages.
Alongside this, a social media campaign- Tobacco Enforcement & Reporting Movement (TERM) is also encouraging people to report violations of spitting ban and on Tobacco Advertising, Promotions and Sponsorships (TAPS). Through social media posts, general public is encouraged to report tobacco marketing violations related to surrogate advertising, point of sale ads, marketing on films, TV and Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms, and advertising near educational institutions.
Sensitising youth and ensuring their involvement is the key strategy of the movement in Rajasthan under with volunteers of Nehru Yuva Mandal (NYM) are encouraged to contribute to the campaign result of which the campaign is reaching to small towns and villages and helping in amplifying the voice fight against tobacco use in Rajasthan.
Authored by Jyoti Choudhary, Shikshit Rojgar Kendra Prabandhak Samiti, Rajasthan