Five years after implementation of smoke-free rules, over 3,87,111 public places have been raided and over Rs.55,49,098 collected by the Delhi Government as fines from the violators. The no-smoking rules had come into effect on October 2, 2008.

This is according to recent data released by the Delhi Government’s State Tobacco Control Cell.

“The implementation of the no-smoking rules in Delhi shows the Government’s commitment towards tobacco control. However there is a need to take stringent action against those clubs, hookah bars and restaurants that are flouting the law. It should also be emulated by other States to make the country smoke-free. In addition, the Government must ensure that the money collected as fines should be spent on tobacco control and public health issues,” said Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) executive director Bhavna Mukhopadhyay.

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 its use from the country.

Even before India became a signatory to the FCTC, the Government of India had initiated and enacted the national tobacco-control legislation “The Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003” on May 18, 2003, commonly known as COTPA 2003.

“This law has many significant provisions such as minimising the use of tobacco consumption and smoking, ban on advertising of tobacco products, ban on sale of tobacco products to minors and by minors etc. This law also declares that the government shall take steps to make public places across India smoke-free. The tobacco industry, and other corporations or associations like ITC Ltd, Indian Hotel Association and others, filed more than 70 court cases against the ban on smoking in public places from October 2,” said Ms. Mukhopadhyay.

Stating that in 2008 after a prolonged struggle, the efforts of tobacco control activists bore fruit and smoking was banned in all public places in the country, Ms. Mukhopadhyay noted that the Supreme Court declined to delay the enforcement of these public interest policies and upheld public health over corporate profits.

As smoking is banned in public places, the Government has also clarified as to what constitute a “public place”. The definition of public place as given in the rule is that all such places where members of the general public have 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.

India with more than a billion people had a large number of people who smoke cigarettes or beedis (tobacco rolled in ‘tendu’ leaf). The benefit of smoke-free policies will certainly protect non-smokers from the dangerous exposure to tobacco smoke, also called second-hand smoke.

“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,” noted a release.

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