This year, Delhi's state health department has collected R13.6 lakh in fines from ban on smoking in public places. According to health officials, the habit “has been curbed somewhat” since the ban was first enforced on October 2, 2008. “Our main objective was to empower non-smokers about their right... to demand a smoke-free environment,” said Kiran Walia, Delhi health minister.
A fine, that ranges from R10-R200 and “is collected at the discretion of the fining authority” was never a revenue generator for the government. “For example, we would charge a rickshaw puller R50 but from a businessman we would take R200,” said Dr R P Vashist, Delhi tobacco control officer. Official figures show that 110,444 people were fined for lighting up in public places, making the government richer by R13,588 since January this year.
“Our aim is to raise awareness and not harass the public. In most cases, the fine collected was only a token, since we concentrated on informing the offender of the ills of smoking,” he added.
“Fewer people now smoke in public and some are also smoking less because it can get bothersome to get out of one's comfort zone to look for a smoking area,” said Dr Vashist, adding, “We empowered heads of private firms to fine individuals, which helped keep a check on the micro level as it is not possible for government officials to be present everywhere.”
While the government is happy about having been able to curb smoking in public places to a great extent, their joint initiative with the Johns Hopkin's University USA to bring down the nicotine content in the Capital's air failed completely. “While smoking is banned in work places during the day, workers tend to light up in their private spaces at night,” explained Dr Vashist. “This made us discontinue our nicotine study after our first phase failed to yield results,” he said.