ISLAMABAD: It may have taken 58 years, but arrangements have been finalised to implement the tobacco vendor act, passed in 1958, in the federal capital. Under the act, tobacco retailers will need licences and must follow a number of conditions, including not selling tobacco products to teenagers or near educational institutions.

A detailed survey of the city’s urban areas has found that 1,229 licences have been issued, 182 vendors are operating within 150 years of educational institutions, 73 vendors have voluntarily stopped selling tobacco products, and 103 refused to acquire licences and will face forced closure by excise inspectors.

An official from the Ministry of Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) said the act was only implemented for a few years after it was passed.

“In the early 60s retailers stopped getting licences, which made it impossible to ensure whether laws regarding the sale of tobacco were being observed,” he said.

“For a licence to sell tobacco products vendors have to submit an undertaking that they will not sell tobacco products to a person below 18. They also will not be able sell loose or ‘open’ cigarettes, and they will not allow the advertising of any tobacco products at their outlet.”

“These conditions are according to relevant sections of tobacco control laws in the country. By filing an affidavit to get a licence, vendors will be bound to follow them and they cannot say they weren’t aware of the conditions,” he explained. Another condition is that tobacco cannot be sold within 150 yards of educational institutions.

“By issuing licences, data about retailers and the average sales can be collected. At the moment there is no authentic data available regarding tobacco use,” the official said.

He said there are around 2,000 vendors selling tobacco products in the city’s urban areas, and it has been decided that they will be issued licences according to the law.

“Licences were issued to 1,229 vendors in different markets in the capital, 182 shops were found selling tobacco products within 150 yards of educational institutions, so notices were served to them to stop selling tobacco, and 73 vendors stopped selling tobacco products voluntarily so they don’t have to get licences,” he said.

He added that there were also 400 kiosks selling tobacco products, which the Capital Development Authority suggested should not be issued licences since kiosks are illegal. “In case of the issuance of licences they will get a document to obtain stay orders from court and avoid any action of the CDA against them in the future.”

“It has been decided that from July 1, all 400 kiosks will not be able to sell tobacco products. Moreover, 103 vendors refused to get licences so it has been decided that they will not be allowed to sell tobacco products. If they violate orders they will face forced closure by excise inspectors.”

Tobacco Smoke Free City project director Dr Minhajus Siraj told Dawn that licences will be issued to over 100 vendors by the end of the month, and the law will be fully implemented from July 1.

“We have been implementing the law, but the tobacco industry has been trying various tactics to stop or delay the law’s implementation, particularly the section that vendors cannot place advertisements at their shops and should not sell tobacco to teenagers, because teenagers are their future consumers,” he said.

“Although we cannot implement the law all over the country because of the 18th Amendment, an opportunity has been created as a case regarding tobacco products is being heard in the Supreme Court, and in the event of court orders to implement the law across the country, it will become possible to extend the law,” he added.

Dr Siraj said the case’s next hearing will be on June 9.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2016

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