Public smoking fines see steep fall in Gurugram, NGO alleges police inaction
After a drastic rise in the number of fines issued for smoking in public places and selling of tobacco products to underage children in Gurugram between December 2017 and January 2018, the number has decreased considerably.
According to the data collated by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Sambandh Health Foundation, in collaboration with the Gurugram police, the total number of penalties issued under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) from March to July this year was 7,870, as compared to 21,000 fines issued between December 2017 and February 2018.
In December 2017, 11,487 fines were issued under the COTPA, before which the number of fines never exceeded the 1,000 mark. The number of fines was 4,921 and 4,573 in January and February 2017 respectively.
In July this year, only 935 fines were issued under the Act, which invites a fine of Rs 200 for smoking in public places.
However, Gurugram logged the highest number of fines issued under the Act in the state with 34,818 fines out of the state’s total of 47,900 between January 2017 and July 2018. After Gurugram, came Faridabad, which registered 6,740 fines.
According to Sanjay Seth, trustee, Sambandh, which is working with the Gurugram police to curb tobacco use, the reduced number of fines can be attributed to police inaction. “December 2017 to January 2018 was the period when there was a special drive against public smoking in the city. This explains the large number of fines. However, ensuring proper implementation of the COTPA is not a priority for the police.”
Seth said that the significant reduction in the number of fines does not indicate a reduction in cases of smoking in public. “The number of offenders relatively comes down during a special drive to check public smoking. However, sustained measures have to be put in place in order to make a difference,” he said.
However, KK Rao, commissioner, Gurugram police, said that the reduced number of fines is a result of strict police vigilance. “Once the police launch a drive on public smoking in an area, word spreads and smokers start avoiding that place,” he said.
As per official data with the Gurugram police, 23.7 percent of Haryana’s population — 39.6 percent males and 5.6 percent females — consume tobacco in some form. Around 18 percent of the adult population smokes tobacco products and 4.1 percent consume smokeless tobacco.
Dr Brahmdeep Sandhu, in-charge of the de-addiction centre in the Civil Hospital, said that while fines act as negative reinforcement, there should be some sort of positive reinforcement such as counselling. “Second-hand smoke is linked to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. Spreading awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco in schools and colleges can go a long way.”