Document Type : Progress of Tobacco Control in South-East Asia Region (Special Issue)
International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), South-East Asia Office, New Delhi, India.
Independent Researcher, New Delhi, India.
Background: Sale of single cigarettes (also known as singles or loosies) is a key driver for early initiation of smoking and is a leading contributor to the smoking epidemic in India. Sale of singles additionally deter implementation of tobacco control strategies of pictorial health warnings including plain packaging and defeat effective taxation and promote illicit trade. We review India’s tobacco control policy responses towards banning singles and other products sold as loose tobacco and identify opportunities for future policy intervention especially in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Existing national and sub-national policy documents were analyzed for their content since the inception of the tobacco control laws in the country. Results: There are no effective provisions at national level to ban loose tobacco products in India. However, the implementation of multiple legislative and regulatory measures (Acts/circulars/letters/notifications/orders/court judgements) in 16 Indian states and jurisdictions provide sufficient legal framework to substantiate its complete ban pan India. While the majority of state governments have adopted state level measures, Rajasthan had issued specific directive to all the 33 districts banning loose cigarettes and other tobacco products. Himachal Pradesh introduced the most unique and comprehensive legislation, for banning the sale of cigarettes and beedis (Dated November 7, 2016). The most recent notification in the state of Maharashtra (September 24, 2020) is the first to leverage powers using a mix of national and state legislations including the legislation addressing the rapidly emerging challenge of managing COVID-19. Conclusion: A robust national policy which supports strong provision to deter tobacco companies, their distribution network and vendors from selling singles or loose tobacco products is urgently needed. Such policy should be backed by cautionary messaging for consumers as well. Eliminating singles and loose tobacco sale will help in blunting tobacco use prevalence besides curbing spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19 pandemic.