Though the district health department is claiming of taking several initiatives to ensure a tobacco-free district, yet the reality is otherwise when it comes to issuing challans for smoking in public places.
The violation attracts a maximum fine of Rs 20 only against Rs 200 as per the rules.
Kapurthala was declared a ‘smoke-free’ district in August 2013, but it has failed to live up to the reputation with the lukewarm response of health officials as they were not able to enforce the ban strictly.
As per the information obtained from the department in 2016, the department issued 181 challans for smoking in public places including 36 challans on January, 37 in February, 36 in March, 37 in April and 35 in May, and the department collected Rs 2,920 as fine.
Similarly, the department had collected a penalty of Rs 8,800 against 440 challans in 2015 while the department issued 314 challans in 2014 and recovered Rs 6,280 as fine.
The department has collected only Rs 20 per challan for violation even under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 or COTPA, that prohibits smoking at public places, especially surrounding areas of hotels, restaurants and commercial institutions. However, a fine of up to Rs 200 is imposed for smoking at these places.
The department’s drives were limited to complete their target only rather than stopping smoking at public places.
As a result, smokers could be spotted at most public places like the bus stand, parking lots, restaurants, stalls, markets and outside government offices.
LACK OF AWARENESS AMONG PUBLIC
Sources in the department said due to lack of strict action, display boards at public places carrying statutory warnings about hazardous effects of smoking, the drives did not have much effect on the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Preventing violation of rules is also a big challenge for the department, as the district administration had banned the sale of tobacco around 100 yards of educational complexes as well.
However, sources in the department claimed that lack of manpower and security concern are the major factors behind the failure of the smoke-free mission in the district.
“We organise special drives and issue challans to people, but they start arguing with us and some people manhandle health officials also.
This is the reason we started imposing only Rs 20 as fine to complete our targets,” a senior health official said on the request of anonymity.
WHAT THE ACT STATES
Under the COTPA, 2003, smoking is prohibited at all public places. A fine up to Rs 200 can be imposed for smoking in public places.
Selling tobacco products to minors, or selling tobacco products within a radius of 100 metres from any educational institution is prohibited.
Civil surgeon Harpreet Singh Kahlon, when contacted, said that he assumed charge here only recently and he will ensure the implementation of the Act in the district.