Stepping up its anti tobacco drive, the Jammu and Kashmir Police have booked 13,925 people and recovered Rs 16, 55,377 as fine from these COTPA violators during the past eighteen months. Those implicated include 648 commuters and drivers who were found violating the anti tobacco act while driving.
Interestingly, the state has 12 per cent cigarette smokers-almost double the nation-wide prevalence of 5.7 per cent-and 3.8 per cent bidi smokers and eight per cent smokeless tobacco users, according to a survey released by Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Worried by the increased use of tobacco the state government has directed the police to incorporate Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, COTPA violations in the monthly crime review for strengthening the public health measure at the district and sub district level.
The state police chief has been asked to collate the violations for strengthening institutionalisation of the mechanism and to forward the details on monthly basis to the Superintendents of Police in the districts.
The COTPA, enacted in 2003 and applicable to the entire country, is mainly aimed to discourage the consumption of cigarettes and other tobacco products by imposing progressive restrictions and to protect non-smokers from passive smoking.
“It is quite heartening to see that police is coming forward to protect the health of people of the state by supporting COTPA enforcement in letter and spirit,” said Afzal Makhdomi, Consultant, Tobacco Control, Voluntary Health Association of India.
“J&K is one of the few states where traffic police is taking separate initiatives for effective enforcement of COTPA. The traffic police has booked 648 violators and has recovered 76, 880 Rupees as fine from these violators during the past 18 months (starting May 2014 to December 2014),” he added.
Pertinently, J&K is the second state after Karnataka, where police department is printing and distributing its own challan books for COTPA enforcement.
Jammu and Kashmir is fast emerging as the smoking capital of north India. Also, the state’s monthly spending on smoking tobacco as far outstrips the national monthly expenditure averages.
While nationally, smokers aged 15 and above spend Rs 399.20 a month on cigarettes and Rs 93.40 on bidis, those in J-K spend Rs 513.60 and Rs 134.20, respectively, on these tobacco forms. Consequently, health hazards due to passive smoking are also more in Jammu and Kashmir as compared to any other state in north India