The victims of tobacco use and their doctors, brought together under the umbrella of Voice of Tobacco Victims Kerala, have appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ban sale of loose cigarettes in the country. Easy accessibility and affordability of loose cigarettes enhance their appeal not just among initial smokers, but also in hardcore smokers, endangering their health and lives, Voice of Tobacco Victims (VoTV) said in a release here today. According to Dr P Balagopal, Head and Neck Oncologist, Regional Cancer here, the ban will prove to be a "major deterrent" in a country where more than 70 per cent of cigarettes are sold loose. "While easy affordability of loose cigarettes increases consumption among habituated smokers, the bigger cause of worry is the contribution to forming habits among youth and first-time users. Once addicted, it becomes very difficult to wean off smoking," he said. Thirty-year-old Saju, a tobacco-induced oral cancer victim, says easy availability of loose cigarettes in all shops in his area increased his desire and inclination to smoke. "I would often buy loose cigarettes as I could not afford a packet. Loose cigarettes also do not carry pictorial warnings that a packet has.
I would appeal to the Union Government and Prime Minister to ban sale of loose cigarettes in India." Retired Circle Inspector, Kerala Police and a tobacco-use cancer victim K S Varghese is also in favour of banning loose cigarettes. "Loose cigarettes are a quick-buy option. A single cigarette can be bought for Rs eight or Rs 10 as against a packet that might cost between Rs 100 to Rs 140. All possible measures to protect youngsters from initiating to smoking should be taken," Varghese said. Senior oncologists and VoTV Patrons across the state have also welcomed the COTPA (Amendment) Bill 2015 that proposes a slew of affirmative tobacco control measures to promote public health. Among others, it recommends increasing the legal age of smoking from 18 to 21 years and expanding scope of Section 4 of COTPA, 2003 from 'prohibition of smoking in public places' to 'prohibition of tobacco use in public places'. VoTV is a unique campaign that gives a collective space and voice to tobacco victims with the aim of propagating the message, "This is what tobacco did to us, we want to save others", it added.