By Pankaj Chaturvedi
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 of Ministry of Women and Child Development came into force on 15th January, 2016. This is an Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to children in need of care and protection, by catering to their basic needs through development, treatment, and social re-integration, by adopting a child-friendly approaches.
This Act recognizes the harmful effects of tobacco and the tobacco industry’s sinister design to specifically target vulnerable children as their new consumers. In a path breaking amendment to curb the growing menace of tobacco, the act has modified section 77 as follows:
It is an offence against a child, if a person gives or causes to be given, to any child, any intoxicating liquor or any narcotic drug or tobacco products or psychotropic substance, except on the order of a duly qualified medical practitioner. This shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to a fine which may extend up to one lakh rupees.
The earlier law called Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003 miserably failed to protect the sale to minors because the fine imposed was only 200 rupees. Mrs Maneka Gandhi deserves highest appreciation for her noble effort that is already being seen as a game changer in the national and international tobacco control community.
With this act, India has becomes the only nation in the entire world to impose such a harsh penalty for selling to minors and selling by minors. Nearly 27.5 crore Indians are using tobacco and a vast majority of them start their habit in their childhood.
As per Global Adult tobacco Survey, the age of initiation of tobacco habits in India is 17 years. As per Global Youth Tobacco survey, upto 20% of children in India are users of Tobacco. More than 5500 children /Adolescents start tobacco consumption daily. This act will save our future generations from this lethal habit. It is proven beyond doubt that Tobacco kills every third user prematurely through cancer, heart disease, stroke etc.
The use of tobacco is a prominent risk factor for 6 to 8 leading causes of death and almost 40% of the Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) including cancers, cardio-vascular diseases and lung disorders are directly attributable to tobacco use.
A conservative estimates of tobacco attributable deaths in India are about 10 lakhs a year. Of the dead, about 70% (90,000 women and 580,000 men) will be lost during the productive periods of their lives. Nearly 50% of cancers in males and 20% cancers in females can be directly attributed to tobacco use. As per the findings of the study titled “Economic Burden of Tobacco Related Diseases in India” (2014) commissioned by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases in India in the year 2011 for persons aged 35-69 years amounted to Rs. 1,04,500 crores.
The efforts of the tobacco industry seems to be to attract young and gullible to the world of tobacco. "Catch them young" is their moto, and use of tobacco products is projected as synonymous with adulthood, modernity, affluence, social class norm, elegance, etc.
The fear of falling sales, adverse articles and medical and media reports have prompted the tobacco industry to innovate new ways to promote their products amongst children through food products and stationery products intended for use of children. Hence the purport of the said Act is to ensure by all means a complete protection to the children below the age of 18 years from exposure to tobacco, for it’s a known fact and evident from several studies that if a person is not addicted to tobacco use till 18 years the chances of him taking up the habit thereafter is very slight. This problem is so important that the international treaty, WHO-Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, has on full Article (no. 16) on this particular issue.
With regards to enforcement, in every police station, at least one officer, not below the rank of assistant sub-inspector, with aptitude, appropriate training and orientation may be designated as the child welfare police officer to exclusively deal with children either as victims or perpetrators, in co-ordination with the police, voluntary and non-governmental organisations.
The author is professor and head and neck surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai