Soon, steep increase in fines for smoking in public

March 20th, 2008 - 4:54 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Anbumani Ramadoss

New Delhi, March 20 (IANS) India will soon steeply increase the penalty for smoking in public, with the institution where the breach occurs also being asked to cough up a huge fine. At the moment, a person who smokes in public has to pay a maximum of Rs.200.

But now the health ministry is proposing an amendment, which will stipulate that a person found smoking in public would have to pay up to Rs.1,000 and if he is found violating the rule in an institution, the organisation will have to pay a Rs.5,000 fine.

Announcing the move Thursday, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said the ministry is in the process of chalking out the changes in the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003.

“We have initiated the process. Now both an individual and an institution will have to pay fines for public smoking,” Ramadoss told reporters while releasing two surveys on smoking habits among schoolchildren and health professionals in India that were conducted by World Health Organisation (WHO), US-based Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the health ministry.

Ramadoss said if a person was found smoking in Nirman Bhavan, the building in which the health ministry is housed, the person would have to pay the fine too.

“If one person is caught, the institute would pay Rs.5,000. If two are caught then they would have to pay Rs.10,000. And if three people are found smoking in a public place, then the institute would have to cough up Rs.15,000,” he said.

The government is also planning to phase out tobacco products and the commerce ministry was working on it. “We would provide alternate employment to people who work in such industries,” said Ramadoss.

The health minister said rules on smoke free work places would be enacted and pictorial warnings on tobacco products would appear soon.

“We are giving special emphasis to fund school programme as we have found data that shows that there is an alarming trend of tobacco use among school going children,” he said while referring to the India Global Youth survey and Global School Personnel Survey 2006.

The survey, conducted 2003-06, said that there is high prevalence rate of tobacco use among students and school personnel. For the survey, 12,086 students and 2,926 school personnel were interviewed.

Over one in ten (12.8 percent) school staff members reported cigarette smoking. It ranged from 8.6 percent in central India to 30.2 percent in northeast India.

Over two out of ten school personnel reported use of tobacco products other than cigarettes (23.7 percent). It ranged from 13.4 percent in the south to 34.3 percent in the northeast and eastern regions, the survey said.

Nearly three out of ten school personnel reported use of tobacco products (29.2 percent). Current use of any tobacco ranged from 20.9 percent in the south to 50.3 percent in the northeast region, it said.

Ramadoss said it is alarming that 14.1 percent of children use some form of tobacco. Also, there is a huge prevalence of smoking among schoolteachers and the staff, he added.

He said the health ministry is planning to start a pilot project in nine states where each school in a district will be allotted Rs.400,000 to initiate anti-tobacco campaigns.

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