In the run up to World No Tobacco Day, The Hindu’s reporters went looking on streets, road corners, public buildings and restaurants across Bangalore to check just how effective the nearly five-year-old ban on smoking in public areas has been. The recce found that in most public places, people smoked with abandon. Many restaurants and pubs had designated smoking zones, but customers were found smoking everywhere. Ask K.K. Rao, owner of Desserted Café in Vasanthnagar, and he says there’s only been an increase in customers who wish to smoke. In fact, he said the restaurant saw an instant dip in customers when it put a ‘No smoking’ sign, forcing it to start a smoking area.

The Union government banned smoking in public places in October 2008. So far, 10,336 cases have been booked by the anti-tobacco cell.

Stephen Gomez, owner of Flames, a popular hangout for youngsters, has been running the place for about 30 years now. He observes that there has been an increase in the number of youngsters who smoke and that the government’s efforts to reduce smoking have flopped.

While some hotels have permits for a smoking area, many don’t. Even in such hotels people were seen smoking on the sly. A proprietor of a hotel in Frazer Town says that customers often insist on lighting up. “We are afraid we will be caught in surprise checks. But often we end up letting customers smoke near our gate, which just messes up the ambience of the place,” she said.