Thursday, 2 October 2008

New anti-smoking law comes into force

The much talked about ban on smoking at public places all over the country comes into effect from today,coinciding with the birth anniversary of Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi. Violation of the ban, imposed under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, will attract a fine of up to Rs.200 but the amount is likely to be increased to Rs 1000.

Smoking will be prohibited at all places to which the public has access, including auditoriums, health institutions, government buildings, restaurants, courts, public conveyances, public transport, stadiums, railway stations, bus stops, workplaces, shopping malls, refreshment rooms, discotheques, pubs and airport lounges. The ban will not cover open spaces.

Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss has welcomed the Supreme Court order declining to stay the Centre's notification prohibiting smoking. He described the ban as a major step towards providing a smoke-free atmosphere and protecting non-smokers from passive smoking.

He said he had personally written to Governors, Chief Ministers, Health Ministers and Members of Parliament to ensure effective implementation of the ban.

On Maharashtra and Bihar which expressed their inability to impose it, Dr. Ramadoss said all efforts, including litigation, would be made to pressure the States to implement the prohibition. Massive publicity and awareness campaigns would be launched.

The law clearly defines the duties and responsibilities of the owner, manager, proprietor, supervisor and anyone in charge of a public place so that he or she could enforce these provisions. In large hotels and restaurants having more than 30 rooms or 30 seats and airports, a provision for a separate smoking area is made. Public places would have to identify the individuals empowered to enforce the law, issue challans or collect fines.

Dr. Ramadoss said if the owner or authorised person failed to act on complaints, he would be fined equivalent to the number of individual offences.

The Health Department is empowered to print the numbered receipt book and the challan book for distribution to authorised officers and ensure that these are accounted for.

The States might create a separate head of account, as was done by Gujarat, in which the fine could be deposited. The department could use the money for tobacco control activities. The head under which the fine is credited could be indicated at the bottom of the receipt. The second option would be to deposit the fine into a miscellaneous account of the department.