The Delhi government is collecting about Rs 12 lakh annually from fines imposed on those guilty of smoking in restaurants and restricted public areas, as per the national ban imposed in October 2008. Accordingly, restaurants are directed to have smoking zones and smokers can be fined upto Rs 200 for flouting norms. However, a reality check reveals that apart from a few plush restaurants, most hot spots in the Capital still don’t have designated smoking rooms.
Smoke in the air
According to RP Vashishta, head of Delhi government’s anti-smoking wing, “A large number of people have been fined for smoking with the premises of a restaurant, or in an enclosed area.” However, despite that, restaurant owners don’t seem too keen on creating designated smoking zones. Says Atul Kapur of QBA, “It is not worth investing so much money for a handful of smokers.” The restaurant, however, does have a terrace which serves as a puff zone, as in the case of most rest-o-bars across the city.
“We always ask people to step out for a smoke, and we’ve never faced trouble,” he adds. Smoke House Grill doesn’t have a separate area either and it isn’t looking forward to making one. “I am better off having people going out for a smoke than make a new area,” says owner Shiv Karan Singh.
It’s not just the restaurants, even five star club Agni at The Park, has opted to go without a smoker’s lounge. “We have no plans for one either,” said the official spokesperson of the hotel.
Even though Dr KJS Bansal, member of the anti-smoking squad, New Delhi District, says “bars and restaurants are mostly complying with the rule after we sent them a notice.” However, restaurants and clubs hardly have regular checks. “It’s only on a complaint that officials come in for a check,” revealed a restaurant owner.
We like that
For restaurants who do have smoking areas “it’s a win-win situation for everyone,” says Deepali Narula of FBar and Lounge. Of course, it is good business sense as well. “At least non-smokers don’t suffer now,” says a spokesperson from The Capitol. “The response to smoke-free dining is always positive,” adds Akhil Kumar of Le Meridean.