Hyderabad: Even with the ban on the sale of tobacco products near educational institutions, they are easily available near numerous schools and colleges in Hyderabad.
Despite the Directorate of School of Education — Telangana’s instructions to district education officers in December 2018 to ensure tobacco-free institutions, the education department officials have not complied.
However, the sale of cigarettes, gutka, paan, and other tobacco-related products within 100 metres of educational institutions is a violation of Section 6 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003.
In Abids, a hub for the city’s premier educational institutions, paan shops are close to schools including Sujatha, Little Flower, Stanley, Government Model High School Aliya, St. Joseph’s Public School and St. George’s Grammas School. They are also close to higher learning establishments like St. Joseph’s Degree College, Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University, AV College and Deccan College of Engineering and Technology.
Earlier this year during a workshop to make Hyderabad a ‘Smoke-Free City,’ jointly organized by the Hyderabad City Police and the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare, both entities decided to strictly reinforce the rules regarding the availability of tobacco products near schools and colleges.
A Hyderabad City police official claims, “We have set up ‘No Smoking’ signboards in an around leading educational institutions. On our watch, the number of public smokers has reduced in the city.” But a recent RTI question raised by activist Akshay Kumar revealed that COTPA violation cases in Hyderabad have risen from 586 to 11,927 in the last two years.
He alleges that no strict action against paan shops or stores that sell cigarettes within 100 metres of educational institutions have been undertaken so far. “The paan shops are deliberately established near the educational institutions, especially at Abids, King Koti, Himayatnagar and Narayanguda. In these areas, schools, junior colleges, and degree colleges are aplenty,” he added.
“You can see students smoking here every day after college. This vexes the residents as well,” said Sneha, a resident who lives in a hostel adjacent to St. Joseph’s Degree College in King Koti. “Soon after 2 pm, students gather here in groups to socialize and smoke till the evening, while the police rarely take any action,” he alleged.
A St. Joseph’s College student says, “When I was in my first year during undergrad, I saw fewer students smoking near the college and now I am in my final year. The number of student smokers increasing day by day is very noticeable.”
“The paan shop’s proximity to the college only prompts students to adopt the habit of smoking,” he adds.
He further suggests that pending the removal of the paan shop by the police, students will quit smoking.
Speaking to Siasat.com, Hyderabad City Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar said, “There are some lapses but I guarantee that immediate action will be taken against the paan shops near schools and colleges.”
The Commissioner further directed all the Station Head Officers to ensure that there shouldn’t be any paan shop or cigarette shop near schools and colleges.
“Very soon the city police is going to launch a special drive against the paan shops close to educational institutions,” the Commissioner announced.