The Supreme Court has sought response from the Centre and states on a PIL seeking a ban on sale of cigarettes, bidis and cigars claiming that every year, India spent more on treating cancer caused by tobacco products than the revenue it earned from their sale.
Citing a report released by World Health Organizations under Tobacco Free Initiative, PIL petitioner Sunil Rajpal said, “Teens who smoke are three times more likely than non-smokers to use alcohol and 22 times more likely to use cocaine.”
Interestingly, the petition said, “Smoking is associated with a host of other risky behaviour such as fighting and engaging in unprotected sex; smoking hurts young people’s physical fitness in terms of both performance and endurance.”
A bench of Chief Justice R M Lodha and Justices Kurian Joseph and R F Nariman sought responses from the governments after Rajpal cited the principle adopted by the apex court in its 1988 judgment to close down tanneries for discharging untreated effluent into the Ganga.
The court in its 1988 judgment had said, “We are conscious that closure of tanneries may bring unemployment, loss of revenue; but life, health and ecology have greater importance to the people.”
The petitioner said the rules and regulations put in place to prohibit sale of tobacco products to minors by banning shops around educational institutions had hardly stopped access of minors to cigarettes who were not aware that smoking meant inhaling nicotine, tar, potential carcinogens, carbon monoxide irritants and asphyxiates which could cause serious diseases including cancer and cardiovascular ailments.
It also said that permitting smoking infringed the right to clean air of non-smokers, who were exposed to the harmful effects of passive smoking.
The petitioner said the mechanical display of a statutory warning for 20 seconds before a scene in a movie where the actor smokes hardly had any dissuading value for the youth, who got swayed by the actor holding a cigarette in his hand rather than get convinced by the harmful effect of smoking.
It said the law prohibited sponsorship of sporting and cultural events by tobacco manufacturers. “Still, sponsorship of sports, musical events, award functions, fashion shows, festivals are routinely done by tobacco manufacturers,” the petitioner alleged.