With the government making sure we stub it out — at least in public places — from October 2, smoking zones will be limited to homes, cars and open spaces like roads.
Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss who has been zealously pushing for the ban — he’s even taken on West Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee and actors Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan — explains why he wants to stamp it out.
“One in eight tobacco deaths is of a non-smoker who has been exposed to second-hand smoke. The ban gives non-smokers the right to clean air and protects them from second-hand smoke, which can produce six times the pollution of a busy highway in a closed space busy restaurant.”
The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2008 says: “There is clearly no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke… exposure can raise risk of heart attacks by 25-30 per cent and the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers by 20-30 per cent.”
According to the Indian Council for Medical Research, tobacco kills over 1 million people in India each year — 3,000 every day.
Children in smoking homes are the worst affected because their higher breathing rates causes them to inhale higher amounts of tobacco smoke than adults. “A child who spends one hour in a very smoky room inhales dangerous chemicals equal to smoking 10 or more cigarettes. In India, 40 per cent children aged 13-15 years are exposed to second-hand smoke in public places and 14.1 per cent consume tobacco,” says Dr Ramadoss. “With 50 per cent tobacco users dying prematurely, we need laws to protect children.”
To show he means business, Ramadoss has begun by vigorously enforcing the workplace ban in Nirman Bhawan, which houses the Health Ministry.
“I was surprised to discover that the smoke-free workplace ban was not being strictly enforced here (‘Smoking rules flouted in Ramadoss’ backyard’, HT, May 31). I have asked senior bureaucrats to crack down on violators and make the ministry totally tobacco free by the end of this month,” he says.
Smoking in public places was banned in Delhi in 2004, but enforcement has been lax.