In spite of the state being declared smoke-free, Himachalis are finding it hard to quit smoking.
In the past seven months, more than 20,000 persons have been fined for smoking at banned places. Himachal Pradesh was declared a smoke-free state on July 2 last year. But, if data is an indicator, it seems that people are still finding it difficult to give up the habit, at least in public places.
The highest number of violations were reported in Solan district, where 8, 635 were penalized and Rs 10 lakh collected as fine in seven months. Shimla reported 3, 592 violations and Rs 4.14 lakh was collected as penalty under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act.
Apart from rural and remote areas of the state, the government has not been able to implement the smoking ban effectively in Shimla, Dharamsala and Manali.
In towns, especially in state capital Shimla, the ban is being flouted regularly. Shimla police have penalised 168 people for smoking in the past 15 days, while 261 were penalised in November.
Ban has helped reduce smoking in public places
A study by Himachal Pradesh Voluntary Health Association (HPVHA) has revealed that the ban on smoking in public places has brought down the number of smokers in the state, but there was still a lot to be done.
HPVHA official Lalit Kumar said that under Section 6 of the Act, shop-owners cannot display tobacco items, but nearly 70% were not following the law. “Nearly 70% shop-owners are displaying tobacco items, so that it catches the eye of consumers, which can include adolescents and school children,” he said.
Under COTPA, apart from the police, the in-charges of hotels, restaurants, shops, and head of government institutions are authorised to challan people violating COTPA, but none paid heed to it.
Under COTPA, there is a provision for penalising such heads of the institutions, shop-owners and other in-charge of premises. “As per the law, there is provision of a 10-time fine than the normal challan,” added he.
However, earlier government had claimed to have done surveys for monitoring tobacco use. “The government has conducted three surveys in the past three years for compliance of smoke-free rules,” said a health official, adding that the funds collected through fines were being used for anti-tobacco activities.