India bans smoking in public places: a step in the right direction

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On the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, October 2nd 2008, India imposed a ban on smoking in public places such as parks, hotels, bars, movie theaters etc. Violators are to pay a fine of Rs 200 ($5).

The policy received an enthusiastic response and support from NGOs such as Burning Brain Society , Action Council Against Tobacco , government agencies like the Tobacco Board and the public at large.  However, substantial skepticism and opposition thrives too with arguments such as this policy diverts attention, efforts and resources away other priorities and is not implementable in practice.  

The progress towards smoke-free India has been spotted and in some cases even temporary. Hemant Goswami, the convener of BBS, blamed the Indian Tobacco Company (ITC) for trying to bribe government officials leading to the re-introduction of public smoking in Chandigarh, the first city to have achieved this smoke-free target.  But at the same time, public awareness against smoking has certainly improved. Mr. Deepak Kumar, a throat cancer victim, has sued ITC for a staggering sum of 10 million rupees for failing to print any statuary warning on cigarette packets for the last 30 years. This is probably the first case in this country in which a tobacco company is being sued.

According to Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, the president of Public Health Foundation of India, the vision of smoke-free public places in India  “require a shift in the civic mindset; it takes time”.   The proponents of the policy, the supporters and the implementers have a long way to go, but the intermittent successes indicate that they are on the right path.

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3 Responses to “India bans smoking in public places: a step in the right direction”

  1. varshner Says:

    The policy should not only focus on advertising that the ban exists but also on why it exists. Explaining the risks of smoking and more specifically the impact of the smoking epidemic in India is crucial to the success of the ban. The policy goal should be to reach the general population by designing ads for specific groups such as young adults, college students, the wealthy and the poor through public education campaigns. The rich and the poor smoke for different reason and will need different messaging strategies to drive home the point.

  2. S. P. Rednam Says:

    It is certainly a positive step for the country, but I would agree that an education campaign on the short and long term risks of smoking is imperative for any real impact with the people. Additionally, I would encourage the inclusion of all forms of tobacco in the ban. Chewing of tobacco or carcinogenic products such as the very popular Paan, is also detrimental to individual health and poses a real public health risk. The class differences do play an integral part in the culture and healthy alternatives for all people should be considered.

  3. gingershu Says:

    I think Ruchi made an excellent point: the rich and the poor smoke for different reasons and need different messaging strategies. It is my personal experience that smokers who are well aware of the negative health effects of tobacco refuse to quit for the most bizarre reasons and denials: “I’ve been smoking for decades and I can’t quit.”; “Smoking prevents senile dementia.” etc. No matter how successful any anti-smoking campaign, it is a sobering fact that it is simply impossible to completely stamp out smoking (lost causes?). What’s probably more practical is advocating protecting the rights of non-smokers to breathe clean air and NOT be subject to second-hand or sidestream smoke. People who DO want to quit should be helped to quit. Children and teenagers should be educated about smoking.

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