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Experts say Act has been effective in certain areas but there are still many aspects that need to be amended and strengthened

After over a decade of the implementation of smoke-free rules (on October 2, 2008) that banned smoking in all public places in the country, questions remain over the effectiveness of the law.

Experts claim that India it has been effective in certain areas but there are still many aspects that need to be amended and strengthened.

Section (4) of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution) Act COTPA 2003 prohibits smoking in all public places. ‘Public Place’ is defined as any place to which the public has access, whether as of right or not, and includes all places visited by general public. Boards containing the warning, “No Smoking Area- Smoking Here is an Offence”, has to be displayed prominently at the entrance of public places.

Chairman of the Max Institute of Cancer Care Harit Chaturvedi said, “What continues to remain matter of concern is the fact that COTPA 2003, presently allows smoking in certain public places [restaurants, hotels and airports], in the form of designated smoking areas. We should look at abolishing all designated smoking areas in hotels and restaurants and even airports to ensure a 100% smoke free environment since most of these designated smoking areas are rarely compliant as per COTPA requirements and are actually putting our public at great health risk from exposure to second hand smoke.’’

Designated smoking room

Voluntary Health Association of India, an organisation working for the prevention of tobacco abuse, says designated smoking room has a grave risk of spreading COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is most likely to be spread by smokers, as the act of smoking includes the removal of masks and the fingers [and possibly contaminated cigarettes] in contact with lips, which increases the possibility of transmission of virus from hand to mouth. COVID-19 infected smokers can spread the virus through floating of contaminated aerosol particles in the air, settling of contaminated particles on objects and surfaces, coughing, sneezing, disposal of contaminated cigarette butts, etc,’’ it said in a release.

It added that the benefit of smoke-free policies would certainly protect non-smokers from the dangerous exposure to tobacco smoke, called second-hand smoke.

Nalini Satyanaraya, health activist, said exposure to passive smoking happened in eateries, specifically hotels, restaurants, bars and restaurants, pubs and clubs, risking the lives of thousands of non-smokers by exposing them to the smoke of cigarettes.

“Designated smoking area that are set up are non-compliant to law and seep the cigarette smoke to non-smoking or common area. The COTPA needs to be amended to not permit smoking on any premises, and make it completely smoke-free in the best interest of public health,’’ she added.

According to information submitted by the Health Ministry in the Lok Sabha recently,₹ 37,33,64,148 had been collected by the government as fines from people for violating thm. A total of 26, 16,050 people were fined during the period 2007-08 to 2020-21 (up to June 2020).

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