Anbumani Ramadoss is a man without vices. He has the additional virtue of being tremendously concerned about all of us without the downside of being our mother (and, therefore, getting into generational quarrels). The healthy and wise minister announced last weekend — probably from a smoke-free restaurant or hotel in London — that his ministry is planning to make smoking in public spaces a criminal offence in India. With a candour that is matched only by his tremendous concern for all of us, he stated that only homes and designated smoking areas at airports and restaurants will be places where the leperous smoker can conduct his fetid business. As for offices, smokers can quit if they want to smoke because there won’t be any smoking zones or rooms allowed here.
Now if you ask me why offices have been left out from the category of places that can have smoking zones, the only answer I can come up with is that the ‘Smoke-free Workplace Rules’ sounds très chic for a government dossier. But what about if I work at the airport or at a restaurant where smoking zones will be tolerated by Herr Ramadoss? Why can’t I, as a chartered accountant or a journalist (archetypal ‘smoking’ professions) have my own smoking corner too?
I have nothing against people who want to enhance their death experience by smoking. In fact, I am one of them. But forget that old ‘individual choice’ versus ‘public health’ debate. In a room or a hole in the wall where your company is willing to smoke into each other’s face (and be very willing to take precautions that not a ringlet wafts over to the ‘other people’), what is the problem in fitting an ‘air-zone air-duct’ — an air freshening machine, that is — that makes the smoke go far, far away?
If companies have enough smoking employees that they want to retain (for their skills, that is), why not make a safe smoking zone instead of making them street-walk when they can puff away in a helpful place? But then, Ramadoss wouldn’t like to peddle a dossier called ‘Smoke-Free Workplace With Designated Smoking Zones Rules’, would he? Watch this smoky corner of this page when Uncle Ramadoss makes another wonderfully concerned statement either when he’s meeting another WHO troupe or visiting a wonderfully bigoted against smokers nation in Western Europe or the United States.