The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is ready to implement the ban on smoking at public places in India from October 2onwards. The ministry issued the notification for the ban under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution), Act 2003.
At first glance, it’s very clear that the law will make the smokers incapable of smoking anywhere they like. But the question is whether this law will prove more effective as compared to the previous law or not? Central Health minister Anbumani Ramadoss had said that according to the GSR 417(E) declaration of May 30, 2008, the new law, which is going to be implemented from October 2, 2008, is a renewal of the old one. That means the old was not much effective in controlling ‘public smokers’. Then what will be the end result of the new one?
The law imposes strict ban on the smoking at public places like auditoriums, hospitals, health centers, parks, hotels, pubs, government offices, courts, educational institutions, libraries, roads, shopping centers, malls, theaters, stadiums, bus stops, railway stations, coffee houses, bars, airport lounges etc. This time the law is quite hard and anyone caught smoking in public places or private organisations will be fined Rs 200, which may rise to Rs 1,000. Persons in a position of responsibility in institutions shall be authorised to impose and collect the fine against the violation of section 4. The law will also allow any individual to detain people found smoking in public places and take them to a magistrate. So if you find anyone smoking in the bus stop you can make him lose Rs 200. But states like Bihar and Maharashtra have expressed their inability to implement the ban. Now, if a state is unable to implement the law then what can a mere citizen do? Only one or two will raise their voice. So a special squad to find law breakers is necessary. Otherwise, the law would be like the closed circuit cameras placed in public places of Delhi, which were found ‘switched off’ at the time of serial blasts.
The best advantage of the new law is that, from October 2 onwards, common people would be unable to light a cigarette outside their houses. If one wants to smoke, he/she should go to a hotel or an airport having ‘smoking zones’. But, for a long time in most of the hotels and public/private offices there has been a ‘No Smoking’ board. Then who would be ready to make ‘smoking zones’ (except some profit making bars, hotels etc having regular ‘smoking’ clients) as now the law gives them power to say “leave the cigar.” If anyone is found smoking inside companies or offices included in the ‘ban’ list, the penalty should be paid by the owners/mangers/supervisors of concerned organisations. Also, in public places, no one should be allowed to provide ashtrays, match boxes, lighters or anything, which smokers can use.
Central Health minister had said that in the last ten months in England around 45,000 people have quit smoking and he expects something like this to happen in India soon. But the population of smokers and social situation existent in India is quite different as compared to England. So there should be a strict enforcement of the new law. Cigarettes contribute 85 per cent to the total excise revenues collected from the tobacco industry, amounting to Rs 8,500 crores. So the question is whether Ramadoss is ready to cut these profits, given that more than twice that amount, is spent by the citizens of India to cure the diseases caused by tobacco every year. There is no dearth of laws in India. Most of the laws are helpful but fail due to slack implementation. Let’s hope that the new law, which is coming into effect from Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary proves effective for the better health of the nation.