From today, smoking in all public places, including restaurants and offices, is banned. But some states, such as Maharashtra and Bihar, say they are not in a position to implement the ban. On its part, the Centre says it is helpless and can do little about ensuring enforcement.
“I have written to governors, chief ministers and health ministers requesting them to implement the law as the Centre is not empowered to implement it. Each state has the option of empowering an authorised officer to collect the fine on the spot or issue a challan that requires the offender to pay the fine at a designated court. What the states want to do with the money collected is also for them to decide,” says Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss.
The law, says Ramadoss, empowers non-smokers to demand an environment free of tobacco smoke. “All citizens now have the right to a smoke-free environment, so people can file Public Interest Litigations or use the Right to Information Act to force their states to implement the ban,” he adds.
While some states and Union Territories such as Delhi, Chandigarh, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Kerala had already banned smoking in public places, the new Central law will ensure that private offices and restaurants also become smoke-free.
The new ban limits smoking to personal spaces like homes and cars. People breaking the law will be fined Rs 200. “The new law clarifies the scope of public place, open space and restaurants as there was some confusion about it,” says Ramadoss.
According to Indian Council of Medical Research, tobacco kills over 10 lakh people in India every year — that’s 3,000 every day.