Sunday, October 5, 2008

No Smoking

The ban imposed on smoking in public places seems to have gone up in smoke completely as almost no one appears keen on following the rule imposed by the Central Government.
As per government notification, smoking is strictly prohibited in all public places, including hospital buildings, health institutions, amusement centres, restaurants, educational institutions, libraries, stadia, railway stations, bus stops,work places, shopping malls, cinema halls, discotheques, pubs and bars.
The Union Health Ministry issued a 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.
However, on the premises of the Secretariat, the seat of administration for the entire State, dozens of smokers can be seen openly puffing away to glory without a trace of fear on their faces.
Even at the head office of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), the implementing agency in the metropolitan city, one can find visitors and employees smoking cigarettes and beedis in a hasslefree manner.
The same situation prevails on the premises of the Hyderabad Police Commissionerate, Basheerbagh, where policemen are found leisurely smoking cigarettes.
At the Gandhi Bhavan, the headquarters of the ruling Congress party, one can easily find netas casually smoking both inside and outside the building.
Despite the Centre’s instructions to put up ‘No Smoking’ sign boards, the latter seem to be conspicious by their absence in government departments, including the Secretariat and the GHMC.
The situation is no different in any nook and corner of the twin cities — one can find people smoking at pan shops, hotels, in restaurants and other public places.
Ramesh, a Secretariat employee who is a moderate smoker, is hardly worried about the ban. Says he, ‘‘Rules are made to be broken. I will continue to smoke in public places.’’ Krishna, another smoker, offers a different perspective on the issue. ‘‘The ban is a legal way for authorities to collect fines from the public,’’ he opines. ‘‘When we smoke in office or a hotel, there is a separate place for us and thus passive smokers are at the minimum risk. But at home and on roads, the risk of non-smokers being affected is more,’’ says Satish who resides in Basheerbagh. ‘‘The government should have let the smoking zones be in place and banned smoking on roads,’’ he adds.
‘‘It’s a draconian ban. When you are stressed during work and just want to unstress yourself, smoking can come to your rescue. But now, you have no other option,’’ Rajesh Kumar, a software engineer, says.
Anti-smoking squads fined 80 violators for smoking in public places across the capital Friday, a Delhi government official said.
"The eight anti-smoking squads conducted raids at 50 public places including restaurants, bus stands and Inter State Bus Terminals (ISBTs) across the capital. 289 buses were also raided by the squads throughout the day," State Tobacco Control Officer, Delhi government, R.P. Vashisht told IANS.
"During these raids the squads fined 80 people -- 79 males and one female -- and Rs.8,940 were collected as fine," Vashisht said.
The Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Rules, 2008, passed by the union health ministry, came into force Oct 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
The new rules expand the definition of public places from government buildings to include all office buildings, hospitals, schools, colleges, railway stations, airports, bus stands, hotels and restaurants. If caught, smokers will have to pay up to Rs.200 and even the owners of the premises can be held liable.
"Maximum numbers of violations were found at the ISBTs - particularly Anand Vihar bus terminal. However, I am very happy that there was not a single violation found in the buses," Vashisht further said.
Delhi has been implementing the anti-smoking rules since 1997. According to official records, "from 1997 till July 2008, the Delhi government has fined more than 87,000 people for smoking in public places."
"Every year, on an average, Rs.700,000 are collected as fines," Vashisht added.
He stated that strict guidelines have been given to the squads for implementation of anti-smoking rules.
"We have given strict guidelines to the squads and told them that no one should be harassed. We have asked them to be polite but firm," Vashisht said.
"The squads have been told to educate those found violating the rules due to ignorance. Anti-smoking law is a social law and it is to educate and make people aware," he added.

This article also publish on Merinews
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