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Stick for smoke shops near school

Police will soon measure the distance between a south Calcutta school and tobacconists in the vicinity.

The shopkeepers could be penalised if they have violated the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act 2003, commonly known as COTPA.

The police will be acting on a complaint at Shakespeare Sarani police station by a homemaker who protested the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products near La Martiniere for Boys on Loudon Street where she goes every day to drop her son.

“I could not take it any more… watch people buy and smoke cigarettes near a place where kids walk through every day. I asked a policeman to take action and he asked me if it was an offence to smoke in a public place. I said, ‘Yes’. He advised me to lodge a complaint with Shakespeare Sarani police station,” said the New Alipore resident whose son is in the junior section.

Section 6 of COTPA says sale of tobacco products within a radius of “100 yards” of an educational institution is illegal.

After the homemaker’s complaint, many guardians joined the chorus against sale of cigarettes near the school. “The footpath is full of people smoking and polluting the area. Shops selling cigarettes in the vicinity should be shut down,” said Ballygunge resident Nandita Daga.

The complainant said: “A total of 93 guardians have taken up the cause. We will approach the school to hang a board announcing the area as a no-smoking zone.”

The complaint mentions three shops selling tobacco near the school. Metro visited each of them.

“I do not sell cigarettes to minors. I know the rules. My shop is 50 years old and we follow the guidelines. It is not within 100 yards of the school,” said a person at the counter of a stationery shop that sells cigarettes as well.

Owners of the other two shops were not aware of the norms. The one near the stationery store had been doing business “undisturbed” for the past eight years while the other near the school’s rear gate facing Moira Street was set up in 1990.