India - one year later, most states yet to implement public smoiking ban..

October 4, 2009 - On Thursday October 2, 2008 the Indian Health Ministry will put in effect a countrywide ban on smoking in public places. Those caught violating the rule may be fined $5 - a sizeable sum in a country where the per capita income is less than $1,000 a year. (India - Heavy Fines If You Smoke In Public Places..)

A year since the ban on smoking most states are yet to implement it, in both letter and spirit. India's ban on smoking in public places is yet to take off nationally. Only 13 states have started an all out campaign to punish those found smoking in public. (India is a federal union of states comprising twenty-eight states and seven union territories.)

Delhi leads the list of best performing states having challaned (official receipt of payment) 11,362 people and having collected Rs 10.7 lakh (lakh=100,000)in fines. Tamil Nadu fined 10,979 people found smoking in public places and collected Rs 12.63 lakh. In Gujarat, challaning (official receipt of payment) was started from November across all districts. Till now, the state has collected Rs 84,090 in fines.

Chandigarh recorded 1,540 challans and till May this year, had collected Rs 3 lakh. Karnataka till April punished 2,465 people and collected Rs 1.15 lakh while Andhra Pradesh collected Rs 1.4 lakh. Goa challaned 250 smokers and Mizoram 1,173 smokers. Uttar Pradesh collected Rs 3,970 as fine from violators, Jharkhand Rs 9,000 and Punjab Rs 35,000. Kerala has challaned 1,200 smokers while Rajasthan has punished nine violators.

According to the law, those caught smoking in public places -- hospitals, amusement centres, restaurants, courts, educational institutions, libraries, public conveyances, railway stations, workplaces, shopping malls, cinema halls, discos, coffee houses, pubs and restaurants would be fined Rs 200 (4.19903 USD).

"Repeated reminders to many states have fallen on deaf ears. They are yet to start challaning violators, even a year after the law was imposed. Some states have been doing it on a small scale," a health ministry official said.

Tobacco is the risk factor for six out of eight preventable causes of death. India is the second largest consumer and third largest producer of tobacco in the world.

Estimates from the National Family Health Survey III indicated an increasing prevalence of tobacco consumption in India, with 57% males and 10.9% females reportedly consuming tobacco in some form. Out of this, 32.7% men and 1.4% women are smokers. Prevalence of bidi smoking is around 54% and that of cigarette is 16%. [Bidis or beedies are small, flavored, filterless cigarettes made in India. They consist of shredded tobacco rolled in dried tendu leaves (a broad-leafed plant native to India) and secured with string. They are produced in a variety of flavors, including chocolate, vanilla, cherry, licorice and mango.]

The Tobacco Control of India 2004 report said more than 0.8 million people die due to tobacco consumption every year. There are studies to indicate that approximately 40% of the disease burden in India is associated with some form of tobacco or other.

Around 50% of all cancer deaths in the country are due to tobacco consumption. According to a recent study published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology, smoking bans can reduce the number of heart attacks by 26% per year, particularly among young individuals and non-smokers.

"Hotels having 30 or more rooms and restaurants having seating capacity of 30 persons or more had to create a separate enclosure for smokers and a separate ventilation arrangement as per the Act. Many have done this. However, workplace smoking continues," another official said.

At present, 9 lakh people, nearly 2,200 per day, die every year in India due to tobacco related diseases.

Reference: A year on, smoking ban just on paper,
Kounteya Sinha, Toms of India, 10/2/2009.