India: Tobacco Products Sold Openly Around Schools, Finds Study

Despite the prohibition on sales of tobacco products near educational institutions, numerous shops and vendors across the country are violating the law by advertising tobacco products around schools. A report released by Consumer Voice and Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) on Wednesday revealed that nearly half the vendors surveyed around schools were selling tobacco products.

The non-governmental health organizations undertook a study of 243 schools and 487 points of sale in 20 cities across 6 states of India. The study found that street vendors were the most common form at 56.6% of the 225 tobacco points of sale observed. Among the 225 tobacco points of sale observed, 52.2% carried British American Tobacco brands and 25.3% carried ITC brands. At least 34% of the points were advertising tobacco products. Observers found that vendors sell cigarettes and bidis as single sticks, making these products cheap and accessible to children and the youth.

The study titled, ¡®Tiny Targets¡¯, was conducted to determine the extent of tobacco products being marketed and sold around schools in India. ¡°Vendors display tobacco products in ways that are appealing to children and the youth. Of the 225 tobacco points of sale observed 91% of displays were at 1 meter, a child¡¯s eye level; 54% of the points of sale had no visible health warning; and 90% of displays were beside candy, sweets and toys ¨C items marketed to children,¡± the report said. ¡°Vendors utilize sales techniques such as discounting products and distributing free samples. Of the 225 tobacco points of sale observed, 37.5% offered price discounts and 32.5% offered free tobacco products,¡± it added.

The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in 2017 had issued an advisory, recommending the licensing of tobacco vendors through municipal authorities. The advisory observes that it would be appropriate to include in the authorization a condition/provision that the shops permitted to sell tobacco products cannot sell non-tobacco products such as toffees, candy, chips, biscuits, soft drinks, which are meant for the non-user, particularly children.

¡°The tobacco industry must be held accountable for their aggressive advertising efforts around our children¡¯s schools. Our schools are not safe so long as the tobacco industry continues to try and lure our children into buying their deadly products,¡± said Bhavna B Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive, VHAI.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey, India (2016-17), conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, shows that nearly 28.6% of adults use tobacco users. The Global Youth Tobacco Survey, India, indicates that 14.6% of 13-15 year old students in India use tobacco. As many as 11% of all male students surveyed were found to be users of smoking or smokeless tobacco, while 6% of female students used smokeless tobacco and 3.7% smoked tobacco.

Ashim Sanyal, Chief Operating Officer, Consumer Voice, said, ¡°We have seen the industry use this tactic time and time again and, it is our duty and responsibility to stand up to the industry and protect our children. The systematic targeting of our nation¡¯s schools is endangering the lives of our youngest citizens and their right to healthy and safe schools.¡±  Enditem