Implementation of no-smoking rule in public areas a testimony: Voluntary Health Associationo f India

Three years after implementation of the no-smoking rules that came into effect on October 2, 2008, over 42,194 people have been fined/challaned and over Rs.30 lakh has been collected by the Delhi Government from defaulters.

According to the data collected by the Delhi State Tobacco Control Cell, of those challaned, 42,118 were men and 76 were women. The data has been collected from raids made during October 2008 to August 2011.

“As a signatory to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), India has an obligation to frame such laws and rules which would ensure reduction of tobacco consumption and finally eradication of tobacco use from the country,” said Voluntary Health Association of India's (VHAI) executive director Ms. Bhavna Mukhopadhyay.

“In 2008 after a prolonged struggle, the efforts of tobacco control activists bore fruit and smoking was banned at all public places in the country with effect from October 2, 2008. The government has also clarified as to what constitutes a “public place”. The definition of public place as given in the rule is that all such places where the public has access to, whether as a matter of right or otherwise, is a public place. These include markets, workplaces, airports, railway stations, bus stands, hotels, restaurants, cinema halls, theatres etc,” she noted.

A release issued by VHAI noted that despite the challenging mechanism set up by the Delhi Government, there are a large number of public places which are still violating the smoke-free rules in the Capital especially the hookah bars.

Still many defaulters

“The legislation that applies to smoking in public places needs to be stringently applied to hookah bars as well. Though the rule allows some eateries to have a separate smoking area, there are still many violations. The rules have a set of guidelines like the smoking zone should be a separate area and should have an automatic door to separate the smoking and non-smoking area but this is not seen at many places. The waiters still go inside the smoking area to serve food or alcohol. It's important that people understand that second-hand smoke is just as bad, if not worse,” said Binoy Mathew of VHAI.

Stating that the implementation of the no-smoking rules in Delhi shows the Government's commitment towards tobacco control, the VHAI added that there is, however, an urgent need to take stringent action against those clubs, hookah bars, and restaurants which are flouting the law. It should also be emulated by other States to achieve the goal of making the country smoke-free. In addition, the Government must ensure that the money collected as fine should be spent on tobacco control and public health issues.”