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Still smoking in your office? Think twice

As the ban on smoking in public places completes a year on Friday, lawmakers have already begun planning for more stringent and efficient implementation in areas that have recorded a low rate of compliance, putting local dives and workplaces in the firing line, report Serena Menon & Neha Bhayana.

mumbai Updated: Oct 02, 2009 02:03 IST
Serena Menon & Neha Bhayana

All smokers who don’t think twice before lighting a cigarette at the office staircase might have a reason to worry.

As the ban on smoking in public places completes a year on Friday, lawmakers have already begun planning for more stringent and efficient implementation in areas that have recorded a low rate of compliance, putting local dives and workplaces in the firing line.

“Country liquor bars start serving customers by 7 pm, which is when most of the officials responsible for fining the offenders have left from duty,” said Navtej Kaur-Nainan, general manager of the NGO, Smokefree Mumbai Campaign, which is assisting the health department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in implementing the ban.

He added that posters and signage seem to have helped in curbing only the literate population from lighting up.

Between April 2008 and March 2009, the Maharashtra Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) collected Rs 7.38 lakh in fines from 3,690 offenders across the state.

Anyone found smoking in a public place is liable to pay a fine for Rs 200.

“The fine amount collected in Maharashtra since the ban has been implemented is much higher than that in other states,” said C V Pawar, joint director of the FDA.

In Mumbai, the BMC has collected Rs 60,000 in fines from offenders.

Officials said that they hope to use the money to generate awareness about the harmful effects of smoking.

Though the official report analysing the actual compliance of the smoking ban is still being prepared, members of the Smokefree Mumbai Campaign claimed that fewer people are lighting up in public now.

Enclosed smoking areas have helped reduce passive smoking. With the law backing them, passive smokers also find it easier to express their discomfort in a smoker’s company.

The NGO plans to conduct more extensive awareness campaigns to improve compliance of the law.

Volunteers plan to visit offices and put up posters highlighting the ills of smoking. Meanwhile, restaurant staffers too have been roped in to assist in implementing the ban by making them liable for anyone found smoking on their premises.

Owners would have to pay the fine for as many people caught breaking the law.