India plans to ban sale of loose cigarettes and the raise the minimum age for selling tobacco products in a bid to check tobacco consumption by children.
The health ministry has accepted the recommendation of an expert panel, which was constituted to suggest ways of reducing tobacco consumption and has now circulated a cabinet note for consultation with other ministries.
''The expert panel constituted by the ministry of health and family welfare has, inter alia, recommended prohibition on sale of loose or single stick of cigarette, increasing the minimum legal age for sale of tobacco products, increasing the fine or penalty amounts for violation of certain provisions of the cigarettes and other tobacco products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA), as well as making such offences cognizable,'' health minister J P Nadda stated in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today.
The ministry's move is in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO)'s framework convention on tobacco control which states that countries "shall endeavour" to prohibit such sales as it makes them more affordable for minors. India is a signatory to the convention.
Shares in ITC Ltd, India's largest cigarette maker, fell as much as 5 per cent after the announcement.