The Indian authorities banned smoking in public places on Thursday in an attempt to fight tobacco use that kills an estimated 900,000 people every year in India. The ban on smoking, which will hit an estimated 240 million tobacco users, includes all offices, restaurants and other public spaces. However, implementing the ban could be a problem as much will depend on observance rather than enforcement.
An Indian worker lighting a bidi -- a pleasure that is now banned in public
India marked the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth in a way the spiritual leader would probably have approved: imposing the world's biggest smoking ban.
From now on, Indians will be forbidden from lighting up in bars and, offices, at bus stands and in other public places. If caught, they will have to pay fines of up to 200 rupees -- the equivalent of a day’s wages for many.
The Smoking in Public Places Rules 2008 also ban all hotels with less than 30 rooms and restaurants with a seating capacity of below 30 from allowing their guests to smoke.
No-smoking law needs to be less complicated
Monika Arora, the executive director of HRIDAY, a leading NGO in the field of tobacco control, said urgent action was needed to combat the deadly consequences of smoking but said the current law was slightly complicated:
“Implementing this law will not be very difficult because the law is clear in saying that public places have to be 100 percent smoke free. The major hindrance that law enforcers are facing right now is understanding the law because the law does allow a few places to be non-smoking as well as allowing some smoking areas. The best way to make the implementation easier would be to go 100 percent smoke free.”
The police, food and drug authorities will levy fines whenever there is a violation. Government officials, inspectors of central excise, sales tax, transport and health departments, as well as school principals will also have powers to fine smokers on their respective premises.
Amit Yadav a legal officer said the law would be effective if properly implemented: “The amended rules make it difficult for smokers to smoke in public places. Even for enforcement agencies, it is the responsibility of the manager of a person in charge of the public place. He also becomes vicariously liable and equally liable of any violation that takes place on his premises.”
Will the smoking ban be ignored like the spitting and urinating bans?
Organisations working in the field of tobacco control were apprehensive about whether the rules would be implemented stringently.
India has already outlawed spitting and urinating in public to little noticeable effect. Questions are also being raised about the success of this no-smoking model in India where almost 85 per cent of tobacco consumption is in the form of flavoured chewing tobacco.
Hundreds of thousands of people lose their lives to smoking-related diseases in India every year. They are at risk from cardiovascular diseases, as well as heart attacks, strokes and cancer.
According to government estimates, the tobacco industry brings revenues of $ 6.5 billion to India every year. The cost of treating the burden of smoking-related illness is at least $7.5 billion.