Sehore became the ninth district in the state to be declared smoke-free on Monday. The announcement was based on results of a study conducted by Indore School of Social Work, an independent agency, as part of a joint venture campaign by the district administration, department of health and family welfare and the Madhya Pradesh Voluntary Health Association (MPVHA).
The study observed whether Sehore fulfills criteria mentioned in the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COPTA) of 2003 to be a tobacco-free district and a study of its public places was done to ensure that rules are followed in this regard.
The good news is the result of a series of programmes carried out to sensitize people of the district and create awareness about the harmful effects of smoking. "We have been trying to achieve this objective for a long time. Continuous efforts are needed to propagate the hazards of smoking and create awareness. Now, we will strive to maintain the standard," said Sudam Khada, Sehore's district collector.
A district is declared smoke-free only after it meets all parameters mentioned in COPTA. A study of all public places in the district is done to ensure that it is in accordance with rules for no-smoking zones. To assess the situation, some random spots, including government and private offices, parks and bus stands, are chosen and observed over a period of time.
"Scrutiny of public places was done during the study. It was observed whether public places (offices, hotels, rest houses, foyers, lobbies and entrances of buildings) are abstaining from providing any smoking aids like ashtrays and matchboxes or if they are free of tobacco smoke," said Mukesh Sinha, director of MPVHA.
In the case of Sehore, which became the first district in Bhopal division to be declared smoke-free, a total of 420 public places of five blocks were observed for the survey. Earlier, the districts of Jhabua, Khargone, Alirajpur, Dhar, Khandwa, Burhanpur, Indore and Ujjain — all under Indore division — were declared smoke-free.
However, MPVHA officials admitted that a lot of variations were reported in districts which were earlier declared smoke-free. "Commitment of top management is very important to reduce the consumption of tobacco. The compliance is good in districts where district magistrates have taken interest while some districts have relaxed it a bit," said Sinha. Though the campaign is a baby of the health department, it is not taking interest at the lower level of the administration, alleged Sinha.