“Nothing better than Vendor licensing to control and regulate the sale of tobacco products. Vendor licensing is legal and can be implemented.” Dr. Suresh Singh, Head Surgery Oncology and COTPA Nodal Officer SMS hospital shared his views at the media sensitization workshop organized by Vaagdhara at Hotel Radisson. He said that 80 % of the patients suffering from cancer because of tobacco consumption come to SMS at stage 3-4 where the chances of survival are very remote. He shared the data from the SMS hospital and told that in the year 2016, 60 patients were operated for cancer. The figure rose to 70 in 2017; 122 in 2018 and till August 111 patients. The mortality rate in such cases is 80 %. And only 20 percent of patients are fortunate to survive.
He presented one of his patient Mr. Nanak Ram aged 40 from Jagatpura, Jaipur before the media. Since this man could not speak, his wife told that he started eating gutkha at the age of 30 yrs. He was detected for cancer 5 yrs back and since then he is undergoing treatment. He has been operated twice, he cannot eat anything, he cannot speak, he is sitting at home for the past two years and there is no one to take care of his family. There is no earning member in the family and the family is under a debt of Rs. 11-12 lakhs which have been incurred on his treatment till now. Even today there are very rare chances of his getting cured.
He recalls the day when he himself started consuming gutkha as it was easily available on his own tea stall and tells others not to consume tobacco. He educates other people through posters and has also written to Ajay Devgan not to endorse Vimal pan Masala. He, through his wife, has requested the state government to implement Licensing of tobacco vendors which will prevent the young generation from eating any tobacco product. He wishes that no one else meets the same fate as his.
Dr. Suresh Singh also said that there were about 50 tobacco vendors around the hospital. If Vendor licensing is implemented, the places around 100 meters of schools and hospitals will be free from such nuisance. Under this, the shopkeepers will have to obtain a license to sell any type of tobacco product and stand a chance of losing their licenses if they violate the rules laid down by the COTPA, 2003. As of now vendors who violate the rules pay a fine and go back to selling tobacco. Licensing will act as a major deterrent, enforcement will become easier and access of minors to tobacco products will reduce. Those selling tobacco without a valid license can be arrested.
Ashok Vaid, Principal MPS, Jawahar Nagar shared the facts that the students were reeling under peer pressure and felt relaxed for some time when they consumed tobacco because it was so very easily available. The students’ don’t understand the health hazards of tobacco products and sometimes try it out just for experimentation or fashion or lifestyle quotient. Tobacco products can be seen at every nook and corner of the road be it a paan shop, a dairy booth, a grocery shop, or even a cyclewala roaming around places of large footfall. A majority of tobacco vendors sell chips, biscuits, soft drinks, toffees and candies, and other child-friendly products which ‘attract’ young children to their shops. It can be observed that more than 90 percent of tobacco vendors sell such products. These young children are potential customers for the tobacco industry. These tiny targets of the big tobacco industry become their customers for 30-40 years and the process goes on.
To stop this easy availability of tobacco products and to stop such tactics by tobacco vendors to lure school students, vendor licensing is the best option for any state government.
ACEO Smart City, Jaipur Municipal Corporation, Ms. Kavita Choudhary said that smart city was not just high-rise buildings, developed infrastructure, good transport facilities, parks, and foundations, etc but it is a concept of smart citizens. Vendor licensing will not only help in organized planning of the city but also help keep it clean. The first-hand knowledge of the vendors will help the enforcing authorities to implement the related government policies and enforce tobacco regulation acts like COTPA. Once licenses are issued to vendors the government will have the complete data on the number of shops selling tobacco products. The Government will be able to check the sale of such products to minors as well as school students. The revenue department would be able to work out the generation of revenue for the government based on the number of such shops. The licensing will automatically check the sale of such products in and around educational institutions and hospitals and other public places.
Dharamveer Katewa, secretary of Indian Asthma Care society expressed his concern and said: “Tobacco is the mightiest Demon of this era”. He said that if there can be licensing of liquor shops than why not for tobacco sale. Licensing will reduce the mushrooming of tobacco vending booths and help the reduction of tobacco consumption. Vendor licensing will end the players of other’s life. The children will be kept away from the menace of such hazardous products and shall keep fit and healthy to add to the human resource of the state. He also said that the health expenditure on tobacco victims is five times more than the revenue generated. So the government should come out of the notion of “Revenue loss” if tobacco is banned. At least the government can implement Vendor Licensing if it has some issues for not being able to ban it completely.
Sawai Singh Ji, a renowned social worker said that while talking to many of the tobacco victims and consumers it was revealed that the easy availability of tobacco products made them the regular consumers of such products. Once initiated, they could never get away from this bad habit of consuming tobacco products, whether they were smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco. He reminded of the union health ministry’s advisory - D O No. P – 16012 /14 /2017 –TC Dated 21st September 2017 to the states that they should regulate the sales of tobacco products through proper authorization and registration of tobacco vendors.
Jayesh Joshi, secretary Vaagdhara (an organization working towards Tobacco-Free Rajasthan) said: “The society should, as a whole, take a responsibility to save kids from the hazardous effects of tobacco which can be ensured through regulation of sales of such products effectively through Vendor Licensing.” He said that Himachal Pradesh and Patna Municipal Corporation have already implemented Vendor Licensing for tobacco products. Rajasthan also in one of its circular no. p.8 (Ga) Niyam/DLB/17/720 dated 4th January 2018 has asked to make necessary amendments in the Municipal Corporation Act, 2009 to implement Vendor Licensing.
If there are 10,000 shops selling tobacco in one district of Rajasthan then the 33 districts will have 3,30,000 shops across the state. If an annual licensing fee of Rs. 3000/- is charged the government can get a revenue of approx. Rs.100 Crores per year.