Almost the whole of the country will become a no-smoking zone by May 31 if the health ministry, led by Anbumani Ramadoss, has its way.
Homes and designated smoking areas at airports and restaurants will be the only places where one can have a smoke once the government introduces the ‘Smoke-free Workplace Rules.’ Once that happens, India will join the list of countries most intolerant towards smoking.
“The Tobacco Control Act only allows smoking and tobacco-use in designated smoking areas at airports and restaurants seating over 30 people. Once the rules are introduced, these will be the only public places where people will be able to smoke,” says Health Minister Ramadoss, speaking to HT from London.
France and Germany have banned smoking in public places — including bars and cafes — from January 1 this year, following the UK which introduced a similar ban in July 2006.
While individual law-breakers will be fined Rs 200, institutions and organisations allowing people to smoke will have to cough up fines as high as Rs 10,000. “About 10 million children under the age of 15 are addicted to tobacco in India, with 5,500 starting tobacco use every day. Before they realise its dangers, they get addicted to it,” says Ramadoss.
Graphic warnings with pictures of diseased lungs and dying babies on cigarette and tobacco packs were intended to do just that, but will now be muted down. A high-level Group of Ministers including Pranab Mukherjee, Priyaranjan Das Munsi, Oscar Fernandes, Kamal Nath, Jaipal Reddy and Ramadoss set up to examine the “merits and demerits” of pictorial warnings found them to be “inappropriate.”
“The tobacco industry needs new consumers and heavily market to the youth, with 10 per cent Mumbai schoolchildren reporting they were offered free tobacco samples and 20 per cent saying they owned a tobacco brand,” says Dr Prakash C. Gupa, Director of the Mumbai-based Healis-Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health.
One in five adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 years consume some form of tobacco in India, with 15.6 per cent of them smoking cigarettes.