After proposing that October 2 be made World No Alcohol Day at the World Health Assembly, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss now plans to ban smoking in workplaces from the same day.
With smoking already banned in public places — railway stations, public transport, hospitals, schools etc — homes and smoking areas in airports and restaurants will now be the only havens left for the smokers. Ramadoss is expected to make the announcement in Chennai on May 31 — World No Tobacco Day.
The health ministry’s proposal to make offices smokefree this year was first reported in HT on January 12, 2008.
“Smoking is already banned in public places in India and the smoke-free workplace rules will further ensure workplaces provide clean air to employees. There is no safe level of exposure to toxicity in tobacco smoke. Creating 100 per cent smoke-free environments is the only way out, as ventilation, air filtration and use of designated smoking areas have repeatedly failed to provide clean air,” says Ramadoss.
The existing Cigarettes and Other Tobacco products Act bans smoking in public places and only allows smoking and tobacco-use in designated areas in airports and restaurants seating over 30 people. “Banning smoking in designated areas at airports and restaurants would require amending the Act, which would cause unnecessary delays. So we will not opt for an amendment now,” says Ramadoss. This means designated places in airports and restaurants will be the only public places where people will be able to smoke without breaking the law after October 2.
Smoke-free environments also helps smokers who want to quit, with data from industrialised countries showing that smoke free policies in workplaces reduce tobacco consumption among workers by an average of 29 per cent, says the World Health Organisation’s Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2008. Secondhand smoke exposure increases the risk of heart disease in non-smokers by 25-30 per cent and cancer by 20-30 per cent, says the report.
“To help people quit tobacco use, all Central Government Health Scheme beneficiaries would also be able to opt for tobacco-cessation therapies to give up tobacco use,” says Ramadoss.
France and Germany have banned smoking in public places — including bars and cafes — from January 1 this year, following the UK that introduced a similar ban in July 2006. According to the WHO, about 50 per cent Americans and 90 per cent Canadians live in areas where public spaces and workplaces are smoke free.
In India, over 200 million men and 50 million women use tobacco in some form, including cigarettes, bidis or chewing tobacco. Tobacco kills 1 million people each year — about 2,500 a day.