Welcome to a Smoke Free World

The Health Ministry’s decision to ban smoking in public places came into effect from October 2, coinciding with Gandhi Jayanti. The law is simple, you may buy cigarettes but you cannot light them up in any public place else you will have to cough up a fine of Rs. 200.

Welcome to a smoke and tobacco free atmosphere. This Gandhi Jayanti onwards, there will be less smokers out in the open. And for all those who were looking at quitting the habit, there is no better time to do it. Considering the fact that almost a million people die in India every year due to smoking, it is indeed a good decision. The law has specially come into being for the passive smokers. Thirty per cent of non-smokers get lung diseases due to smoking by other smokers.

Now let us look at what the implications of this law are. You cannot smoke at any public place. That includes your office, auditoriums, malls, theatres, shops, bus stops, rickshaws, hotels, pubs, discotheques, restaurants, market places, railway stations, airports- the list is endless. So perhaps it would be easier to focus on the places where smokers can smoke.

For starters you may smoke in the privacy of your home. But if the atmosphere gets too clogged inside your house, you may light up in a public park where there is enough greenery around but there shouldn’t be people around. You may also get to smoke in the ‘smoking zones’ anywhere either in your office, restaurants, pubs, hotels as long as you are permitted to do so. You may even light up in the comfort of your car provided you are not the one on the wheel and yes do not forget to roll up the windows.

But how will this law be implemented? Will there be policemen every where to fine you if got caught smoking? Not necessarily. Traffic policemen, beat constables, Municipality corporators, government officers, even school teachers, can make you cough up the fine if you are caught smoking. The Health Minister Mr. Ramadoss has also said that the implementation of the law may not be too easy and hence the general public should make an effort to dissuade people from smoking in public as well. Thus even if there is no government officer around, you will always be under the watchful eyes of the general public, who may not necessarily be able to make you pay a fine but will definitely get you to stop smoking.

India is not the first country in the world to have an aversion towards smokers. In 2007, Germany had banned smoking all hotels, pubs, restaurants and discotheques. In the United Kingdom as well there was a similar ban implemented. In Ireland there was a ban on smoking at the work place and even at New York there is a tough ban on smoking in restaurants, hotels and pubs. Several other countries have gone on to ban smoking henceforth.

It is often said, that there is so much smoke and pollution in the air, that if it were not for our lungs there would be no other place for it to go. The move to ban smoking in public places comes as a balm for all non smokers who had to consume all that smoke much against their wishes. So, next time you get that urge to take a puff, atleast you won’t give in to it till you get to a smoking zone. The move is great for the non smokers and will also act as a moral and legal deterrent for active smokers.

Shishir Shrivastava

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