Even after being declared a smoke-free district in February this year, Jalandhar has failed to live up to the reputation with the health department not able to enforce the ban on smoking at public places strictly.
Many people are thumbing their nose at the law by smoking openly at public places without any fear and due to the apathy of the health department. Besides taking strict actions, the department has even failed to penalise the defaulters as compared to last year, when the district was not declared smoke free.
The district health department has issued only 392 challans between January and November this year, as compared 592 challans during the corresponding period in 2013.
Ironically, before the state government declared the Jalandhar district smoke free in February, the health department used to issue around 150-200 challans every month. But now, the figure has come down to 50. Currently, the department is issuing only 20 challans on an average per month.
The Jalandhar deputy commissioner had directed the heath officials last month to prevent smoking in public places, but nothing has been done in this regard as yet. As a result, smokers can be spotted at most public places like the railway station, bus stand, parking lots, restaurants, stalls and markets.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey in 2010, nearly 25 lakh people aged 18 years and above consume tobacco and tobacco products in Punjab.
Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 or COTPA prohibits smoking in all public places, especially surrounding areas of hotels, restaurants and commercial institutions. A fine of up to Rs 200 is imposed on people found smoking in these places.
Sources in the health department said due to the lack of strict action, display boards in public places carrying statutory warnings about the hazardous effects of smoking have had no much effect on sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Preventing violation of rules is also a big challenge to the health department, as the district administration had banned the sale of tobacco around 100 yards of educational complexes as well.
“People were not completely aware of rules and regulations. A meeting was held with district administration officials in this regard on Friday and a campaign against smoking will be launched in the district from Monday,” Civil surgeon RL Bassan said.