Expert panel likely to recommend raising minimum age for smoking to 25

Written by Express news service | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 13 2014, 16:13pm hrs
SmokingAn expert committee is in favour of raising fines for tobacco-related offences, including smoking in public. (Thinkstock)
AN expert committee set up by the Health Ministry for recommending amendments to the Tobacco Regulation Act is likely to recommend that the minimum age for smoking be increased to 25 years from the current 18 years.

The committee is also in favour of raising fines for tobacco related offences, including smoking in public, but has decided that the increase should be at a reasonable level. However, the final report on amendments to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA), 2003, is yet to be prepared. Former Delhi health secretary Ramesh Chandra, who heads the committee, said the report will be ready early next week.

We are in favour of raising the minimum age for smoking to 25 years. We also want fines for tobacco-related offences to be raised and among the suggestions that we have received is one that says that the fine for smoking in public should be Rs 20,000. We have not taken a call on what that amount should be but we understand that proposing an amount that is not practical will only cause the government to reject that recommendation. We do not want that. We also want the sale of loose cigarettes to be stopped and the size of the pictorial warning to be raised, said one of the members of the committee.

Members explained that the inputs of the committee are more of a technical nature, delineating international best practices and the health effects of tobacco. The final shape of the report is being decided in consultation with the ministry representative, explained a member. Among the other offences for which the committee wants fines to be raised are for sale of tobacco products to underage people, advertisements at the point of sale and repeat offenders especially when they are traders or companies violating COTPA regulations.