Ban on smoking in public came into effect on Thursday but not one challan was issued.
However, it wasn’t quite Gandhigiri that prompted smokers to become law-abiding citizens on Thursday. The fact that it was Bapu’s birth anniversary, a national holiday, saved the day for many as no one came looking for law-breakers.
“Today is a national holiday. How can you expect people to work today? We’ve been implementing the ban for 11 years and will continue to do so, but not today. No one authorised to implement the law is working today, so please call us tomorrow,” said Dr RP Vashisht, Delhi’s State Tobacco Control Officer.
Even in Tamil Nadu, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss’s home state, where he is on a long weekend, officers with the power to issue challans stayed away from the job.
Ramadoss expressed his surprise at this. “It’s my day off too, but I’m spending my holiday distributing anti-smoking pamphlets in Chennai’s Koyambedu bus terminal. Many, especially women from small towns and rural areas, said they were happy as the law would help them save money and health,” he told HT from Chennai.
Ramadoss said the idea was to use the law to help people become aware of the hazards of passive smoking and make smokers think twice before lighting up. “The change has to come from within, that’s what Gandhigiri is all about,” said Ramadoss, explaining why he chose October 2.
Delhi restaurants say no
Though no raids were conducted, the ban was clearly in place here. Eating joints like TGIF, Nirula’s Potpourri and Café Coffee Day joints removed ashtrays and displayed signs requesting guests not to smoke inside restaurants.
“People are requesting us for a smoking area but we are abiding by the government order. Most of our customers come in for a drink, and when people drink, they also like to smoke. So, this ban is bad for business. It will bring profits down by at least 20 per cent,” said Bhim Singh Kumar, manager of Zen Chinese Restaurant in Connaught Place.
Others feel the decline in profit will be a temporary phenomenon. “If we consider the global scenario, in New York and countries such as the UK, Ireland and Singapore where such a ban is in place, there was an initial dip in the business but things gradually improve,” said Dhiraj Arora, managing director of Shalom, lounge and bar.
Sumitro Mazumdar, manager of Nirula’s Potpourri, said, “We have declared our restaurant a non-smoking area. There have been customers coming and asking where our smoking zone is, but we have politely informed them of the ban, and they still chose to have their meals here.”
Restaurant owners are still confused about the specific guidelines to demarcate smoking and non-smoking zones. “We know about the ban, but what if we want to have a smoking area in the cafe. What exactly does the law say about it we aren’t aware of,” said Chandan Chaudhary, deputy manager of Cafe Morrison.
Some have decided to wait and watch for a while. “We’ll observe for a couple of weeks how things go before making the necessary changes,” said Arora.