Punjab and Haryana High Court Issues Notice to Swiggy, Blinkit, Meta, Google on Sale of Tobacco Products to Minors

Mainstream
22-May-2024
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The Punjab and Haryana High Court recently issued notices to Swiggy, Blinkit, Meta, and Google, alongside Central and State authorities, in response to a plea seeking regulation of the sale of tobacco products to underage individuals on online platforms. The case, *Tejaswin Raj through his guardian/authorized representative Anshu v. Union of India & Ors*, was heard by a Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice GS Sandhawalia and Justice Lapita Banerji. The next hearing is scheduled for July 24.

The petition was filed by a 15-year-old student, represented by his guardian, who expressed deep concern over the rampant use of smoking and vaping among teenagers in Chandigarh. The petitioner highlighted that existing health regulations were being flagrantly violated by online platforms.

The plea pointed to the ineffective implementation of the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade And Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA), 2003, and the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage, and Advertisement) Act, 2019. It claimed that banned products, including e-cigarettes, were easily accessible to minors.

The petition specifically mentioned how underage persons could effortlessly purchase tobacco products from platforms such as Swiggy Instamart and Blinkit, contravening Section 6(a) of COTPA, which prohibits the sale of tobacco products to individuals under 18. The petitioner recounted his own experience, stating, "I could order a pack of cigarettes through the Blinkit app simply by ticking the box 'YES, I AM ABOVE 18,' and it was delivered within 9 minutes."

The teenager sought the Court's intervention to ensure strict enforcement of existing legislation and to curb the availability of tobacco products to minors. The plea also proposed the formation of a monitoring committee, supervised by three retired High Court judges, to establish a permanent mechanism to prevent the illicit trade and promotion of e-cigarettes and tobacco products to youth.

Advocate Himanshu Raj, representing the petitioner, underscored the urgency of addressing this public health issue, emphasizing the potential long-term harm to young people.

The Court's decision to seek responses from the implicated online platforms and authorities underscores the gravity of the allegations and the need for stringent regulatory measures. This case highlights a significant gap in the enforcement of tobacco control laws and the role of online platforms in facilitating underage access to harmful products.

Author: Anushka Taraniya 

News Writer, MIT ADT University