The health department has been facing an uphill task for declaring Jalandhar a smoke-free district by January 26 as, in spite of ban on smoking at public places, people are seen smoking with impunity in every part of the city.
After an e-mail received about a survey team of PGI, Chandigarh, reaching the city on Thursday, officials of the department are on their toes to show their performance as very few challans have been issued by health and police departments last year.
According to sources, only 747 challans, including 592 by the health department and 155 by the police, were issued from April 2013 till date.
The other departments including education, agriculture, mandi, public health and several others have failed to issue any challan causing a little bit of trouble for the administration in declaring the district a smoke-free.
The health department has been leaving no chance to impress the PGI team due to which several signboards have been erected to show the team its effort of creating awareness among the public.
According to information, the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution Act (COTPA) prohibits smoking at all public places. At present, a fine of up to `200 is being imposed on those smoking in public.
Section 4 of COTPA and subsequent rules notified (The Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Rules, 2008) prohibit smoking at public places with the aim of protecting people from passive smoking, which can cause serious health problems including heart diseases, lung cancer, severe asthma attacks, sudden infant death syndrome, and many others among adults and children.
Under the act, smoking is banned at any place to which the public has access, including hospitals, railway waiting rooms, amusement centres, restaurants, public offices, court buildings, educational institutions, libraries, public conveyances, auditoriums, etc.
The law also mandates that the vendors hang boards mentioning that only those above 18 years can buy cigarettes.
There is also a ban on the sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of religious places and educational institutes under the act. When contacted, civil surgeon Dr RL Bassan said that we have been issuing challans on a regular basis to violators but there is need to create more awareness about bad effects of smoking.
He said that the department has also put up signboards and banners at markets, schools, petrol pumps and other places to make the public aware about harmful effects of smoking. District health officer Dr Balwinder Singh said, "We are conducting inspection and issuing challans from time to time."
Singh said that the PGI team would visit various areas of the city during the next two days and prepare a report on the basis of which the district will be declared smoke-free.