Ban on loose cigarette sales – will it be enough?

Spend five minutes standing next to a roadside paan-wala (hawker) and watch cigarettes fly out of his small stall. What will shock you is not the number of single cigarettes sold, but the ages of people buying cigarettes. You will see children walk up boldly, hand over money and walk away with cigarettes. Charge the seller and he will say – the child bought it for his father.

So there are two significant steps that I wanted to talk about:

  • The proposed ban of loose cigarette sales
  • The proposed increase of the legal smoking age from 18 to 25

Lets address the first. I have read a lot of columns and blogs today about ban on loose cigarette sales, saying that it will be impossible to monitor, the government will not have the manpower to ensure the follow through and the most pertinent, that loose cigarettes will be sold at a premium. I agree with all these points – they are valid and we have history that proves them.

How the difference is made by putting ban on loose cigarette sales?

Yet, no difference is made unless you make a change so lets just take a hypothetical scenario.

  • A few hawkers may decide to adhere by law and stop selling loose cigarettes. So people who buy only a couple of cigarettes would not be able to buy. Or would buy less often.
  • This would result in two things
  • fewer people would smoke that day and
  • they would discuss the reason of the ban

Now I’m not saying that this will cause people to give up smoking completely, but it will get them to start talking about it. Buying cigarettes will get harder and anything that is not easily available automatically getting shunned.

An estimated 70% of all cigarette sales are of loose cigarettes

It is estimated that 70% of all cigarette sales that happen across the country are loose cigarette sales. India is said to have 120 Million smokers; so this means that this ban will directly affect and about 84 million people. Now does it start making sense? Lets say that this ban actually converts 10% of these people and gets them to stop smoking. That’s an immediate 8.4 million WHO GAVE UP SMOKING.

Raising the legal limit of smoking

Now lets discuss the second aspect – raising the legal limit. This is one of the most flouted laws we have, but if we could do it in bars, I am sure we can ensure it on the streets. Penalties must be high, not only from the government but also the cigarette manufacturers. This will ensure that no child will buy cigarettes. There are lesser chances of a grown up taking to smoke if he or she hasn’t smoked for 25 years.

So yes, I do believe that the ban on loose cigarette sales and increase the legal age limit will have an impact on smokers. The effects were felt immediately by two of India’s major tobaccos companies, which showed a decline in their share value. I hope over the years that decline will result positively reduced number of smokers, thus mitigating the incidence of Lung Cancer. It may not be enough, but it sure is a beginning.


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Dr Arvind Kuamr

Comments for “Ban on loose cigarette sales – will it be enough?”

  1. Reply

    Right Sir , For that creating awareness in hawkers about ban on loose cigarettes we need to start social movement.

    Rohit Japtiwale,
  2. Reply

    Punjab become the first state in India to ban the sale of loose cigarettes.

  3. Reply

    सर ! प्रणाम . प्रसन्नता की बात यह है कि एक ज़माना था जब सिगरेट को एक फैसन के रूप में मान लिया गया था पर अब इसे एक असभ्य व्यक्ति कि निशानी मना जाने लगा है . मैं सोचता हूँ कि सामाजिक सोच में बदलाव सिगरेट से मुक्ति का एक बेस्ट वे हो सकता है

    baldev dhaka,

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