Thursday, October 02, 2008

Smoking ban in India ?

India has banned smoking in workplaces from October 2 onwards. The aim is to discourage smokers, to make them reduce or quit smoking. Those flouting the ban will face a fine of Rs 200. The law is impressive, but would it work?.

OCTOBER 2 onwards, India has banned smoking in workplaces, public places, hotels and restaurants, offices, courts, banks, schools, colleges, libraries, cinemas, auditorium, restaurants, shopping malls, parks, monuments, railway stations, airports, bus stops, buses, taxis.

The new Smoking in Public Places Rules 2008, which was notified this month come into effect from October 2, birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The only places where one can smoke will be smoking lounges at airports, restaurants with over 30 seats, smoking rooms and of course or your own home. The fine for violating the ban is Rs 200.

Though an appeal was filed before the Supreme Court, it upheld the government ban on smoking in public places from October 2. The government of India had earlier tried to control tobacco use through Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply, and Distribution Bill, 2003. Key provisions of the law include prohibition on direct and indirect advertisements of tobacco products, prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors and prohibition of smoking in public places. But one can see many who smoke in public places. Also cigarette packets sold in India are required to carry pictorial warnings along with the text saying smoking is injurious to health and smoking causes cancer in both Hindi and English. But I still have not seen any pictorial warnings.

India is good in making laws, they look good when drafted and announced, but somehow implementation of these laws is a major challenge. It is not about one sector or area, it is across board.

India had banned children below 14 years of age from work, but go to any state, any city one can see children working in dhabas, restaurants, petrol pumps,brick kilns and as domestic labour etc. Hardly anyone gets punished! India has banned sex selection under Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) (PCPNDT) Act, but the reality is quite different.

Tobacco laws have been there in India, but still more than 250 million people in India use various tobacco products like gutka, cigarettes and bidis and millions of them die, many suffer with heart and lung diseases because of this habit. The data says one in two Indian men and one in seven women use tobacco in the country. Tobacco causes 40 per cent of all cancer disease in India.

So the fact is that law is good, but the issue is of implementation. I am not sure if we have the manpower to implement this law. Do we have necessary structures, people, mechanisms in place who can implement the laws or will it remain as yet another good policy level declaration, which is not implemented on ground.

Contributed by Anil Gulati

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