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Tobacco ban goes up in smoke

- Survey finds rampant sale of products near educational institutions

Guwahati, May 8: A survey by the Voluntary Health Association of Assam (VHAA) has found rampant sale of tobacco products near educational institutions here in violation of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003.

According to the association, the indifference of educational institutes and the administration has resulted in blatant violation of the COTPA, 2003, especially Section 6 (b) — which prohibits the sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of any educational institution and mandates putting up of signage by authorities of the institution stating the same.

The association conducted the survey last week in five institutes of higher education in the city — Gauhati University, Cotton College, S.B. Deorah College, B. Borooah College and Guwahati College.

“Despite being declared tobacco-free in 2009, selling of tobacco products is rampant in and around Gauhati University. The survey team found a large number of shops and kiosks dealing in tobacco products just outside and in close vicinity of the campus,” a spokesperson for the association told The Telegraph.

“Even the students were found smoking on the premises. It is worth mentioning that in 2013, the students of this university had collaborated to promote a self-imposed ban on consumption and sale of tobacco products,” he said.

According to him, the survey team also failed to find a single mandatory signboard — stating the prohibition on sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of the institute — on the university campus.

The university authorities, however, claimed that they carry out regular monitoring to prevent any violation of the COTPA.

The scene was not much different at S.B. Deorah and B. Borooah colleges, the survey revealed.

“The pavements adjacent to the colleges are dotted with shops openly selling tobacco products. The mandatory signboards were also not there,” the spokesperson said.

Authorities of S.B. Deorah seemed to be ignorant about the COTPA provision of putting up signs but authorities of B. Barooah College said they had a signboard outside the college but it got damaged.

The shops outside Cotton College were, however, not found selling tobacco products openly but there has been allegations that they do it discreetly, the spokesperson said.

The survey team found the mandatory signage outside the botany and zoology departments of Cotton College.

In Guwahati College, authorities have banned consumption of any tobacco product within the college premises. But the shops outside the college were openly selling tobacco products. The mandatory signage was, however, not there in the college.