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What ban? Loose cigs and beedis are still sold across city

Ayushi Singh;

Shopkeepers choose to continue selling loose cigarettes and beedis as they fear the loss in income.

Despite the Karnataka government’s ban on the sale of loose cigarettes and beedis, most  paan  shops  and tea stalls are selling them. While most have chosen to ignore the ban, some are unaware of it.

Rathna, a tea stall owner in Rajajinagar, informed The Observer she had heard about the ban a few days ago, but wasn’t aware it has been brought into effect.
People stop at her shop, the only one on a 2-km stretch, to buy loose cigarettes.  They smoke there before leaving. When asked by The Observer whether they were aware of the ban, most replied in the affirmative. They buy a cigarette or two instead of a whole packet, which costs a lot, they said.

P. Muniswami  a paan shop owner in Malleswaram, said: “I am aware of the ban, but I own a small shop and most of my income comes from the sale of loose cigarettes and beedis, and tea.”

Very few people stop at these shops to buy paan; they ask for cigarettes, beedis or tea.

Ajaz Khan a resident of Koramangala who smokes regularly, said: “The government might have banned the sale of loose cigarettes with a good cause —discouraging the use of tobacco — but people like me... won’t be able to reduce or quit smoking.  I won’t mind buying a whole pack.”

Santhosh, owner of Sanvi Juice and Chat shop in Koramangala, is aware of the ban. Selling loose cigarettes fetches him more cash than eatables. If he stops selling loose items, he said, his customer base would drop to four or five people who buy whole packs.

A smoker who didn’t want to be named told The Observer that no vendor has so far refused to sell him loose cigarettes, even though it has been a fortnight since the ban came into effect. “Buying a whole packet won’t help reduce smoking; it will, instead, increase tobacco intake. People can control smoking when they buy a single cigarette at a time. Having a whole packet in hand will force them to smoke more,” he said.

The shop of Hanmanth Raiappa, a tea vendor in Russell Market , Shivajinagar, always has people stopping by to smoke a cigarette or a beedi. “We poor people find it difficult to match our expenses with whatever we earn, most of which comes from selling cigarettes and beedis. If the government wants to reduce tobacco usage, it should ask the manufacturers to stop manufacturing these products instead of banning the sale of loose products,” he said.