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Smoking ban goes up in smoke

delhi Updated: Oct 05, 2011 19:33 IST
Jaya Shroff Bhalla
Jaya Shroff Bhalla
Hindustan Times
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It seems the ban on smoking in public places is not being followed in true letter and spirit. Within three years of the implementation of the anti-smoking law, tobacco inspectors and officials from the health department have collected over Rs 31 lakh as fine from defaulters caught lighting up in public places.

Ever since the smoke-free law came into effect on October 2, 2008, over 42,000 persons have been challaned, filling up government's treasury by Rs31, 68,532. State Tobacco Control Officer Dr RP Vashisht said the total amount was quite less as officials did not charge Rs 200 from every offender. "Our concern is to raise awareness and not harass the public. We don't necessarily charge the entire amount. In most cases, the fine is in the form of a token. We want to educate the offender on the ills of smoking," said Dr Vashisht.

“The figures of people smoking in public areas have reduced, besides some avoid doing it as it is bothersome to hunt for a smoking zone,” he said. As per the anti-smoking law, the offender can be fined anything between Rs 1 and Rs 200.

According to the latest statistics from the State Tobacco Control Cell, the state government conducted 42,194 raids at public places from October 2008 to August 2011. A majority of the offenders constituted men.

In stark contrast to 42,118 men, only 76 women were fined for smoking in public areas during the same period.

The Delhi government has eight squads, each comprising four members, challaning officer, helper, police official and a secretarial assistant.

Under the Delhi Prohibition of Smoking and Non-smoker's Health Protection Act, 1996, and the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, the state government has been fining people since 1997.

Earlier, the restriction was applicable only in government buildings and offices. However, the 2008 law brings private offices, pubs and restaurants under its purview.