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Smoking ban: Too early to say

New Delhi, Fri, 03 Oct 2008 NI Wire

It may be too early to say whether the ban on smoking in public and private places will have any immediate impact, but certainly a welcome move considering the stats of tobacco related diseases and deaths in India. However, when there are other serious health issues, the government needs to do a lot in terms its implementation with a proper mechanism of punitive measures and a continuous public awareness campaign.

India – the world’s third largest consumer of cigarette, following the lines of Britain, France, South Africa and Thailand, has banned smoking in public places from Thursday (Oct 02) on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Herewith, no one is allowed to light up a cigarette/beedi in any work places, public places including hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs, theatre, bus stops, railway stations, airports, shopping malls, parks etc. Violators will be fined Rs 200 that soon to be hiked to Rs 1000.

In fact, laws against smoking in public places already exist in India but the administration has had complexity enforcing them. Though its implementation is still in question but the participation of civil society, media and non-government organisations with incessant awareness campaign; not only in big cities but also in rural areas can make a difference negating the past experiments.

As per available health data, there are over 240 million tobacco users in India and about 9,00,000 people die every year due to various tobacco related deaths. Moreover, passive smoking or second-hand smoke is one of the biggest killers causing deaths in children and adults who don’t smoke. Health experts say second-hand smoke contains hundreds of chemicals known to cause lung cancer, heart disease, asthma etc. So, against the notion of individual constitutional right, non-smokers too have the right to access a smoke-free environment.

Only an extensive campaign with tighter enforcement of law in coordination with every state government can serve towards the success of world’s biggest public smoking ban. To one cause, the fines collected from smokers can be better utilised in the promotion of other health care activities. Therefore, legal bans along with an increased tobacco taxation policy can be effective in decreasing the overall smoking rate and thereby the passive smoking.

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