India - restaurants take advantage of exclusion in nationwide smoking ban..

August 4, 2009 - On Thursday October 2, 2008 the Indian Health Ministry put in effect a countrywide ban on smoking in public places (including workplaces, hotels, public transport (buses, trains and Metros), airports and railway stations, educational institutions, cafes, theatres, among others). A violation of the law comes with a flat fine of Rs 200 (around $5.00). People could still smoke in homes, on the roads and parks. Airports, hotels with 30 or more rooms, or restaurants with a seating capacity of 30 or more will be allowed to provide separate smoking areas.

Restaurants have taken advantage of this exclusion. Chungwa (Chungwa Chinese Restaurant in Greater Kailash New Delhi) is just one of the few but growing numbers of restaurants and pubs in the National Capital Region (NCR) that have opened designated spaces for smokers after the ban came into effect in October, 2008. TGI Friday's in Saket and Vasant Kunj, Hard Rock Cafe in Saket, Cafe Morrison in South Extension, Tabula Rasa in Saket and Buzz in Gurgaon are some other joints that are saying, "Come on baby, light my fire."

Some restaurants have invested anywhere between Rs 2 and 2.5 lakh (a unit in the Indian numbering system equal to one hundred thousand) in setting up a smoking lounge; Cafe Morrison, for instance, has installed a state-of-the-art smoking exhaust. Hard Rock Cafe's 100 sq ft smoking space has a window and a separate exhaust system. The puffing room at Tabula Rasa has graphic art covers on the walls and bar stools. One corner is dedicated to a cigar humidor.

Restaurants are reaping the rewards. Cafe Morrison's manager Umakant says business went up by 60% after introduction of the smoking room. Chungwa's manager Gaurav Chatwal also says that footfalls have gone up by 20%. "Business has picked up after we constructed our smoking room six months ago,'' says Chatwal, looking at a group of dressed-up youngsters who walk into the restaurant. While half the group waits, the other half moves across the floor to the smoking room.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine said India is in the grip of a smoking epidemic that is likely to cause nearly 1 million deaths a year by 2010. More than half of these deaths would be among poor and illiterate people, the study said. It estimated that there are 120 million smokers in India. A Nationally Representative Case–Control Study of Smoking and Death in India...

Reference: Smoking rooms light up pubs, Times of India, 8/4/2009.