Ramadoss smokes out smokers from public, private places

September 9th, 2008 - 9:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Anbumani RamadossNew Delhi, Sep 9 (IANS) Come Oct 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, and smoking in public places and even private buildings anywhere in the country will become a punishable offence.Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss Tuesday said the government is committed to curb tobacco consumption among the people and has set the deadline of Oct 2 to ban smoking in public places.

“If you want to smoke, go out to a street where there are no people,” Ramadoss told reporters.

Earlier, smoking was only banned in government buildings but as per the new rules, all buildings, including private ones, will be smoke-free zones.

“Pubs, discos, bars, hotels, restaurants, railway stations, schools, colleges and all offices are under the purview of these new rules,” the minister said.

He said that with the new rules coming into force, all hotels with at least 30 rooms and restaurants with a sitting capacity of 30 will be barred from allowing their guests to smoke.

“They may come up with a smoking lounge but food and drinks will not be served inside it.”

Ramadoss said the government is empowering school principals, post masters, railway station masters, NGOs and even your boss to book you if you’re caught smoking in a public place.

“We are going by the old fine of Rs.200 per person caught smoking in public places. But we want to increase the fine to Rs.1000 per person per offence and Rs.5,000 for institutions. A decision on this might be taken in future,” Ramadoss said after inaugurating a two-day anti-tobacco advocacy conference here.

He said that the government will continue with its anti-tobacco drive in the form of a ban on smoking in public places from Gandhi Jayanti, and pictorial warning on tobacco products will start from Dec 1.

The pictorial warning will comprise of lacerated body parts of cancer patients and carry a tag line tobacco kills. It will be mandatory for all tobacco companies to carry the pictorial warnings.

“Through an awareness drive, the silent majority will be able to overcome the propaganda of noisy pro-smoking minority,” the minister said.

“Forty percent of all our health problems are tobacco-related. It is time to scare the lights out of tobacco users by highlighting the health hazards,” he added.

Focusing on the tobacco menace among the youth, he said that 13 percent children in the age group of 13-16 years consume tobacco.

In order to address this major concern, the government has allocated Rs.2.2 million to each district for creating awareness among people and especially among students.

He said a number of tobacco de-addiction clinics would come up to help smokers quit. To begin with the government will start 100 clinics and ask medical colleges and district hospitals to open such centre1s.

Last month, the cabinet approved Rs.6 billion for anti-tobacco drive and promotion of medicinal plants in the country.

National Medicinal Plants Boards and National Tobacco Board will make efforts to wean away tobacco growing farmers from tobacco to medicinal plants.

Minister for State for Health and Family Welfare Panabaka Lakshmi, who was guest of honour at the inauguration, said that tobacco is a major health problem with very high socio-economic and health cost and there is a need for concerted efforts to control this menace. Director General Health Services, R.K. Srivastava, also addressed the gathering.

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