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MULTINATIONALS ILLEGALLY SELLING TOBACCO AROUND SCHOOLS, REVEALS SURVEY!

A recent study conducted by two consumer agencies to determine the extent of tobacco products being marketed in and around the schools in Dibrugarh exposed the shocking truth of tobacco menace targeting young children.

The findings of the study titled, “Big Tobacco Tiny Targets” carried out by Consumer Voice or Voluntary Organisation in Interest of Consumer Education and Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum (CLPF) revealed that the multinational tobacco companies are illegally selling tobacco products in and around schools in the state.

CLPF Assam along with Consumer Voice organized a stakeholders’ workshop here in Hotel Kettekee today to release the findings of a new report that revealed tobacco companies are systematically targeting children as young as eight years old in Dibrugarh by selling tobacco products and placing tobacco advertisements near schools premises.

These egregious tactics, used by companies like British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco or Indian Tobacco Company (ITC), Philip Morris (Godfrey Philips) are clear violation of Section 5 and 6 of Cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products Act.

Despite the prohibition on sales of tobacco products near educational institutions, numerous shops/vendors/points of sale sell & advertise tobacco products around schools.

Consumer Voice and Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, Assam undertook this study in Guwahati, Jorhat and Dibrugarh.

This study titled, “Big Tobacco Tiny Targets” was conducted to determine the extent of tobacco products being marketed and sold around schools in State.

A total sample of 34 schools and 48 points of sale were closely surveyed during this study in Dibrugarh.

Sharing the key findings of the study Hridaya Pankaj Das, Regional Coordinator, CLPF says nearly half of the vendors around schools sell tobacco products.

Investigators observed 34 points of sale selling tobacco products out of the 48 surveyed around schools.

Street and mobile vendors were the most common form of vendors at 71% of the 34 tobacco points of sale observed.

Multinational tobacco companies sell tobacco products around schools.

Investigators documented that, of the 34 tobacco points of sale observed, 82% carried ITC brands and 53% carried Phillip Morris. Vendors advertise tobacco products around schools.

Investigators observed tobacco advertising at 59% of the 34 tobacco points of sale observed. Vendors sell cigarettes and bidis via single sticks, making these products cheap and accessible to children and youths.

Investigators observed single stick sales in 82% of the 34 tobacco points of sale observed.

Vendors display tobacco products in ways that are appealing to children and youth. Investigators documented that, of the 34 tobacco points of sale observed, 53% of displays were at 1 metre – which is at a child’s eye level; 56% of the points of sale had no visible health warning; and 38% of displays were beside candy, sweets and toys – items marketed to children.

There was a panel discussion on ‘saving young generation from exposure to tobacco products & their use’ where Riktom Borgohain, District Nodal Officer, Tobacco Control Cell, Dibrugarh; Iqbal Ahmed, Senior Reporter, The Sentinel; Prakash Sarmah, Officer – In-charge, Dibrugarh Sadar Thana; Dr Sashi Kanta Saikia, Principal, DHSK College, Dibrugarh gave their valuable suggestions on the issue.

Udayan Baruah, Joint Director of Health Services, Dibrugarh spoke on the “Role of restricting tobacco sales to young people: Policy Advisory on Vendor Licensing.”

All speakers emphasized on urgent action from the Government agencies to stop tobacco companies from targeting children by aggressive advertising & selling tobacco products around schools and stricter enforcement of COTPA rules prohibiting the selling and advertising of tobacco products within 100 yards of educational institutions.