A meeting of State Level Co-ordination Committee was held under the Chairpersonship of Vini Mahajan, Principal Secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare, Punjab . Commissioner FDA cum Secretary Health Punjab Shri Hussan Lal and representatives of various stakeholder Departments, and various NGOs were present.Vini Mahajan said that a coordinated effort from all departments is the essence of controlling the menace of tobacco and nicotine. She said it is the responsibility of every stakeholder department and civil society to create awareness about hazards of tobacco/ Nicotine and implement the anti-tobacco/nicotine laws effectively. She also suggested conducting enforcement drives regularly. She said that our special focus should be on protecting children and youth from tobacco abuse.She suggested that strict implementation of Section 6 of COTPA is required as the students in the school colleges are in vulnerable age group. She suggested that Juvenile Justice Act need to be implemented strictly as a penalty of Rs 1.00 lakhs and a jail term of seven years can be imposed for offering tobacco to minors. She further added that efforts should be made by Excise and Taxation Department to raise VAT on Bidis & Smokeless Tobacco at par with Cigarettes.
She disclosed that Five Villages in District Faridkot have been declared as Tobacco Free Districts.Mr. Hussan Lal Commissioner F.D.A. told that the Food & Drug Administration Punjab has initiated many steps to curtail the sale of E-cigarettes. Punjab was the first State to declare E-cigarettes as unapproved drug and court cases have been launched against the violators. Scented & flavoured chewable tobacco has also been banned and Food Safety Officers have been instructed to take appropriate action under Food Safety & Standards Act of India.State Program Officer, National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP), Dr. Rakesh K Gupta highlighted various legislations, notifications, regulations dealing with tobacco and nicotine.Representatives from the Finance Department assured that VAT will be increased on all tobacco products including bidis to make them unaffordable for children and poor to reduce prevalence. Representative from the Transport department suggested that all private and commercial vehicle should have mandatory No Smoking signages.Dr. Sonu Geol, Associate professor, School of Public Health, PGIMER suggested up scaling of tobacco cessation services as Punjab is lacking behind in this field. He also suggested counseling of Tuberculosis patients regarding tobacco cessation in collaboration with Program Officer, Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program.