2,200 Indians die every day from tobacco use

October 2, 2008 | By | Reply More
India imposes ban on smoking in public places

India imposes ban on smoking in public places

India on Thursday imposed a countrywide ban on smoking in public spaces in its fight against tobacco use, which a medical study warned would claim 1 million lives in the country each year from 2010.

The ban, aimed at the country’s 120 million smokers, has received a good response from people across the country,  Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss asserted in the southern city of Chennai.

“It is a continuous process, … and the message will go across through repeated awareness campaigns by the government and the media,” Ramadoss, a tireless anti-smoking campaigner, told reporters.

India has had laws against smoking in public places in place for some time, but they have not been enforced strictly.

The new order bars smoking in hotels, eateries, cafes, pubs, bars, discotheques, offices, airports, railway stations, bus stops, shopping malls and parks. People can continue to smoke in private homes and open spaces.

Britain, France, Ireland and Thailand are among the countries that already have similar bans in place.

The fine for violating India’s order is 200 rupees (4.29 dollars), but health authorities said higher fines of up to 25 dollars were being contemplated.

The new Smoking in Public Places Rules 2008 came into force on the anniversary of the birth of independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, who was known for his ascetic habits.

Citing a survey that found that 52 per cent of children took up smoking after watching film stars lighting up on the screen, Ramadoss appealed to Bollywood celebrities not to encourage smoking.

‘’People look up to celebrities and follow them,” the minister said. “Our popular film star Rajnikanth has stopped smoking in movies. Other stars should also set an example.”

Besides the police, government officers; inspectors of central excise, sales tax, transport and health departments; and principals of schools have been given powers to fine violators on their respective premises.

Officials acknowledged that enforcement might not be easy.

Despite Ramadoss’ assertion that the law has been well-received, many smokers were incensed by it and opposed the move.

“This is a senseless and draconian ban,” Rajiv Kumar, a software engineer, told the PTI news agency. “When you are stressed during work, you just want to de-stress yourself. Now, you have no other option.”

Pub and restaurant owners also said they felt the government rushed the measure without giving them enough time to arrange space for “smoking zones.”

India is the third-largest tobacco producer and consumer in the world after China and the United States.

According to a Health Ministry release, more than 2,200 Indians die every day from tobacco use. They are at risk from cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

A recent study by a team of doctors from India, Canada and Britain showed that tobacco smoking would kill 1 million people annually beginning in 2010.

Saying India is in the midst of a “catastrophic epidemic of smoking deaths,” the doctors warned that nearly 70 per cent of the million deaths would take place among smokers in their prime.

The research, which is the most comprehensive study on smoking in India in recent years, said that by 2010, one in every 10 deaths in India would be caused by smoking.

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Category: Opinion, Photo Gallery, South Asia

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