District electoral officers have been asked to display signs outside polling booths

Health activists in the city have welcomed the Delhi Chief Electoral Officer’s instructions to all district electoral officers-cum-district magistrates to ensure prohibition of smoking at booths. The district electoral officers have also been asked to display signs outside polling booths informing voters about booths being no-smoking zones.

Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) executive director Bhavna Mukhopadhyay called it a significant development for effective implementation of tobacco control laws. She maintained that other States, including Assam, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, too have declared all polling stations as no-smoking zones.

Ms. Mukhopadhyay, whose organisation works for tobacco control, added: “We met key electoral officials to ensure that polling stations in Delhi be made smoke-free and requested them to issue necessary instruction/direction to all the concerned officials to put a complete ban on smoking inside polling booths.” VHAI previously made representations to the Chief Electoral Officer of Delhi keeping in view the dangers of passive smoking on women voters.

“There is a lack of awareness regarding passive smoking and studies have shown that second-hand smoking tends to cause pulmonary diseases and lung infections. The worst sufferers are women, pregnant women and young children. If directives are issued and implemented strictly, it will be of great service to the public and help generate awareness about the dangers of smoking,” said Binoy Mathew, media officer of VHAI.

The Chief Election Commission of India had earlier issued instructions in its handbook to all the presiding officers to impose complete ban on smoking inside all polling booths throughout the country. “Chapter IX Section 7.0 of the Handbook has directed all the polling officers to ensure that no smoking is allowed inside their polling stations. It further adds that neither polling officer nor the polling agents are allowed to smoke inside the polling station. Section (4) of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution) Act COTPA 2003 prohibits smoking in all public places,” added Mr. Mathew.

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