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Karnataka Takes Bold Steps to Curb Tobacco Use: Raises Smoking Age to 21 and Implements Statewide Hookah Bar Ban

In a significant move aimed at curbing tobacco consumption among youth, the Karnataka assembly passed a comprehensive bill addressing multiple aspects of tobacco regulation. Among the 11 bills passed, one key legislation focuses on raising the legal age to purchase cigarettes from 18 to 21 years. This measure aims to deter youngsters from taking up smoking at an early age, thereby reducing the prevalence of tobacco-related health issues.

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Moreover, the assembly imposed a blanket ban on hookah bars across the state, recognizing the need to discourage tobacco consumption in various forms. The legislative action, embedded within the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, comes with stringent penalties for violators. Those found operating hookah bars post-implementation of the bill face imprisonment ranging from one to three years and fines of up to Rs 1 lakh.

In addition to raising the age limit for cigarette purchases, the bill seeks to enhance fines on sellers, with penalties increasing from the existing Rs 200 to Rs 1,000. Notably, selling cigarettes within a 100-meter radius of schools and colleges will also incur the same penalty, further emphasizing the commitment to protect the youth from the harmful effects of tobacco.

Health and Family Welfare Minister Dinesh Gundurao, a key proponent of the bill, underscored its necessity in overcoming legal challenges previously encountered due to a notification-based ban on hookah bars. The amendment to the existing Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) reflects the government’s commitment to safeguarding public health from lung-related diseases associated with tobacco use.

The legislative action follows a series of measures aimed at tackling tobacco-related issues in the state. On February 7, Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao announced a blanket ban on hookah across Karnataka, signaling a proactive stance in addressing tobacco-related diseases. The decision is bolstered by data from the WHO Global Youth Tobacco Survey (2019), which highlights the alarming rate of tobacco consumption among adolescents.

In light of the health risks posed by tobacco, including heightened risks of cancers, heart disease, and lung disease, the government’s actions are crucial in safeguarding public health. Furthermore, the economic burden of tobacco-related illnesses underscores the urgency of such measures, with Karnataka incurring significant costs in healthcare due to tobacco-related diseases among individuals aged 35-69.

By raising the smoking age and implementing a statewide ban on hookah bars, Karnataka demonstrates its commitment to promoting a tobacco-free environment and protecting the well-being of its citizens, particularly the youth.

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