Smoking ban on, but implementing squads off on Gandhi Jayanti

October 2nd, 2008 - 5:02 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 2 (IANS) The government may have chosen Gandhi Jayanti as the most appropriate occasion to bring in its ban on smoking in public places but the day held an unexpected bonus for smokers in the Indian capital with its implementing squads being on holiday.”The squads will not be working on Oct 2 as government officers are off that day,” tobacco control officer of the Delhi government R.P. Vashisht told IANS as the buzz about the butt intensified and hotels and restaurants turned into smoke free zones.

The Delhi government has eight squads with four members each to conduct raids and fine those caught smoking.

“Delhi has been implementing the anti-smoking rules since 1997; the new government rules are certainly a welcome step,” Vashisht added.

Since 1997 till July 2008, the Delhi government has fined 87,770 people for smoking in public places.

According to the union health ministry’s new Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Rules 2008 that came into force on Mahatma Gandhi’s 139th birth anniversary, the definition of public places has expanded from government buildings to include all office buildings, hospitals, schools, colleges, railway stations, airports, bus stands, hotels and restaurants.

If caught, smokers will have to cough up Rs.200 and owners of the premises are equally liable.

Hotels and restaurants in the capital have galvanised into action. Several establishments that earlier had smoking and no smoking zones have turned into completely smoke free zones.

“Now, no one would be allowed to smoke inside our restaurant. Our restaurant is now a smoke free zone,” said Kulvir Singh, an employee of The Legend of Connaught in the heart of the city’s shopping area, Connaught Place.

“Customers coming to the restaurant are themselves quite conscious over smoking in public places. So far today, no one has tried to smoke in the restaurant,” Kulvir Singh told IANS.

“We have five restaurants in the hotel which are now absolutely smoke free,” said senior supervisor of the ITC Maurya Sheraton, Lucky Dogra, adding that a designated area for smokers had been created.

Railway authorities were among the others geared up to implement the ban.

“Railway stations are already a no-smoking zone. But after the announcement of the ban by the central government starting Oct 2, we have further issued directions to the station authorities to keep a strict check on smoking,” said a Northern Railway official.

Anybody found smoking at stations or inside trains will be fined, he added.

Some smokers fretted but others were sanguine.

“We are civilised people and we don’t smoke purposely to harm others. If someone objects, I never smoke in that particular area. But I don’t think that the ban is going to help much in stopping smoking in public places,” said a media consultant, Gaurav Dua.

College student Mohit Sharma put it this way: “The ban is good and it is the right of a non smoker. Now I will not smoke in public places. This will help in reducing the number of cigarettes I smoke everyday and will also help me in saving money.”

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