Young want to look cool: Plea in Supreme Court seeks increase in smoking age on World No Tobacco Day

Human rights grounds can also be used to justify protecting people from the dangers of active smoking, according to the plea
Representational image | diabetesselfmanagement
Representational image | diabetesselfmanagement

A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court asking the court to order the Centre to prohibit the sale of loose cigarettes, raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 and develop programmes to combat smoking addiction.

According to the plea, which was filed by lawyers Shubham Awasthi and Sapta Rishi Mishra, on Tuesday, May 31, the incidence of smoking has been rising for the past two decades and it has become such an epidemic that India currently ranks second among smokers in the 16-64 age range.

The plea stated, "A study published in the Journal of Nicotine and Tobacco Research has flagged the severe economic burden of second-hand smoke exposure in India. The study revealed that second-hand smoke causes Rs 567 billion in healthcare costs annually. This accounts for eight per cent of total annual healthcare expenditure, on top of Rs 1,773 billion in annual economic burden from tobacco use."

According to the plea, young people are becoming addicted to tobacco products to either look cool or fall prey to peer pressure. The plea added, "They see adults smoking and it becomes a rite of passage or their inducement to initiate smoking to show that they are matured now."

Human rights grounds can also be used to justify protecting people from the dangers of active smoking, according to the plea. It added, "Most smokers start before adulthood, at a time when the capacity for rationalised, long-term decision-making is not yet fully developed. Many adolescents are lured into cigarette smoking as a rite of passage into adulthood, usually through their peers, unable to fully conceive of the addictive grip of nicotine, and the health impacts they will later experience."

According to an IANS report, the petitioners sought a direction to increase the smoking age from 18 to 21, ban on sale of loose cigarettes and also directions for removal of shops selling cigarettes near educational institutions, public buildings, places of worship etc.

The plea sought guidelines and directions for closing the dedicated smoking zones at airports, clubs, restaurants, hotels, public places and even in private properties being used for commercial purposes in a phased manner so as not to induce smoking among non-smokers.

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