The best thing that happened to non-smokers in 2008 was the ban on smoking in public places, which came into force on October 2 after a steadfast campaign by Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss.
The ban — the world’s biggest ever — has the potential to transform the health map of India and its billion-plus people.
Its impact will be felt for many more years to come, and so far, it seems to be working well.Cigarette sales have reportedly dropped after the ban. Even better, a World Health Organisation (WHO)-sponsored survey found that 74 per cent of school students in India favoured the ban.
Over 50 per cent tobacco users die prematurely of one of the many diseases caused by tobacco, including heart diseases, cancers and lung diseases. According to Indian Council of Medical Research, tobacco use kills over 1 million people in India each year — 3,000 every day.
The ban will “encourage smokers to give up their deadly habit,” said Dr Shrinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India.
The ban is also a big relief to non-smokers, who also face the same risks if they are regularly exposed to others smoking around them.
According to the WHO, one in eight tobacco-related deaths is of a non-smoker, who has been exposed to secondhand smoke.
“The ban gives non-smokers the right to clean air and protects them from secondhand smoke, which can produce six times the pollution of a busy highway in an enclosed space,” said Ramadoss.
Introducing a ban on smoking in public places and raising tobacco taxes in New York, in 2002, had lowered overall smoking rates by 21 per cent, with the drop being a high 50 per cent among teenagers.