National organisation for tobacco eradication ( india) Urges Government for removal of Designated Smoking Room
Twelve years after the implementation of smoke free rules, which came into effect on October 2, 2008; Rs 33 crore have been collected by the Government as fines from people for violating the no-smoking rules. A total of 26, 16,050 people were fined during the period 2007-08 to 2020-21 (upto June 2020). While appreciating the government for its timely initiatives to protect people from killer tobacco products in India, public health experts, doctors and passive smoking victim, appealed to make the nation, 100% smoke free by removal of designated smoking rooms.
“The implementation of the no smoking rules shows the Government’s commitment towards tobacco control, however COTPA 2003, presently allows smoking in certain public places (restaurants, hotels and airports), in the form of designated smoking areas. I recommend that we should abolish all designated smoking areas in hotels and restaurants and even airports to ensure a 100% smoke free environment since most of these designated smoking areas are rarely compliant as per COTPA requirements and are actually putting our public at great health risk from exposure to second hand smoke”, Dr.Shekhar Salkar, Renowned Oncologist and Secretary of National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication(india)
In 2008 after a prolonged struggle, smoking was banned in all public places in India with effect from October 2, 2008. Smoking is banned in public as per section (4) of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution) Act COTPA 2003. COTPA prohibits smoking in all public places that include markets, workplaces, airports, railway stations, bus stands, hotels, restaurants, cinema halls, theatres etc. However, it allows designated smoking area (DSA) in airports and hotels & restaurants with over 30 rooms and 30 seating capacity respectively.
On this occasion, Ms Nalini Satyanaraya, a passive smoking victim also voiced her suffering as cancer victim to draw attention to the sufferings of non-smokers due to second hand smoke. “Exposure to passive smoking risks lives of thousands of non-smokers by exposing them to the smoke of cigarettes. Designated smoking area in hotels, restaurants, bars, airports allows the seepage of cigarette smoke to non-smoking, increasing the risk of cancers and lung & heart diseases. COTPA act needs to be amended, to not permit smoking in any premises, and make it completely smoke free in the best interest of the public health,” appeals Nalini, who was diagnosed with throat cancer 6 years ago. While exploring the causes the doctor treating her told that it could be because of exposure to second-hand smoke due to her husband’s smoking.
In their appeals to the government, experts and doctors also highlighted that smoking specifically in DSA is fraught with risk of spread of COVID-19, through contaminated air, surface and disposal of contaminated butts. DSAs facilitate the spread of COVID 19 infection as smokers cannot social distance or wear masks and are in close proximity in a smoke filled environment. All of them appealed to eliminate all DSAs immediately, to reduce the health burden posed by smoking and second hand smoke exposure, particularly as it is dealing with the health burden caused by the pandemic.
India has the second largest number of tobacco users (268 million or 28.6% of all adults in India) in the world – of these at least 12 lakh die every year from tobacco related diseases. According to Global Adult Tobacco Survey, 30.2% of adults who work indoors are exposed to second-hand smoke at their workplace. And7.4% of adults are exposed to second hand smoke at restaurants. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes death, disease and disability among smokers and non smokers, including children. The total direct and indirect cost of diseases attributable to tobacco use was a staggering Rupees 1.04 lakh crore ($17 billion) in 2011 or 1.16% of India’s GDP.