Tobacco companies and vendors are targeting school kids as young as eight years old by putting advertisements in and around schools to sell cigarettes and other tobacco products. This has been revealed in a joint study done by Consumer Voice and Voluntary Health Association of India. The study was conducted in 20 cities across 6 states in the country.
The study titled “Tiny Targets” surveyed 243 schools in different cities. Out of this, half of the vendors surveyed were found selling tobacco products and 34% of the points of sale were found to be indulging in tobacco advertisements.
The survey was conducted in cities like Hyderabad, Indore, Morbi, Jorhat and others aiming to determine to what extent tobacco products are marketed and sold in and around schools and other educational institutions. The study found that the vendors used single sticks to use both bidis and cigarettes. This helped in reducing costs for the vendors. The single stick sales were found to be as high as 90.9% of the 225 points of sale included in the survey.
Advertisements Target Children
The advertisements are also tricky and designed in a way to easily lure children—the study said. Vendors displayed tobacco products in ways that can appeal children and youth. In the 225 tobacco points of sale, 91% of the displays of tobacco products were found to be at a height of one meter which is around a child’s eye level. Over 54% of the points of sale didn’t have any visible health warning and more than 90% of the displays of tobacco products were besides candy, toys or sweet items which are the attractions of the children—the study said.
Vendors also trick the children by using sales techniques such as discounting products and distributing free samples. The survey found that out of the 225 tobacco points of sale, 37.5% offered price discounts and 32.5% offered free tobacco products.
Ashim Sanyal, Chief Operating officer of Consumer Voice said in a press release on the study, “We have seen the industry use this tactic time and time again, and it is our duty and responsibility to stand up to the industry and protect our children. The systematic targeting of our nation’s schools is endangering the lives of our youngest citizens and their right to healthy and safe schools”.
Bhavna B Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive of Voluntary Health Association of India said, “The tobacco industry must be held accountable for their aggressive advertising efforts around our children’s schools. Our schools are not safe so long as the tobacco industry continues to try and lure our children into buying their deadly products”
The new report is neither unique to India nor is the first time that tobacco industry is found to be targeting children. But the data that has revealed in this study is alarming because it documents a very systematic and widespread pattern of activity by tobacco companies to get young people addicted to tobacco.