No-smoking rule flouted inside, outside hospitals

People seen lighting up outside tuberculosis ward

It might have been five years since the ban on smoking at public places and two years since the ban on sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of hospitals came into effect, but both the rules are openly flouted across the major government hospitals in the city.

Despite notices and warnings of penal action against smoking adorning the walls of these hospitals, neither do the violators face any hurdles while smoking inside the hospital premises, nor are the hospital authorities aware or active.

Temporary as well as permanent tobacco shops on or right outside the hospital premises, brazenly sell these products with almost no resistance from the authorities.

While AlIMS has been able to ward off smoking inside its premises, there are numerous permanent tobacco stalls adorning the pavement right across the hospital, which is against the law.

Major hospitals, including Safdarjung Hospital, GTB, Lok Nayak Jai Prakash, Lal Bahadur Shastri, have people smoking inside their premises without any fear.

The extent of the violation is such that people can be seen blowing smoke rings even in the registration wards of Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital.

Dr Rajpal, medical superintendent of GTB Hospital in east Delhi, while speaking to Deccan Herald, initially appeared oblivious to the menace, but soon blamed it on the guards who are responsible for catching the culprits.

“The people responsible for catching the smokers themselves smoke inside,” said Dr Rajpal. Claiming that he has never received any complaint in this regard, he acknowledged it was time to form a committee to start a campaign against it.

The irony is that apart from other areas of the hospital, people were seen smoking just outside the tuberculosis ward of LBS Hospital in Mayur Vihar. While people are being treated for tobacco-related diseases in these hospitals, sale of tobacco products outside the premises goes without inspection.

When the violations were pointed out to LBS Hospital’s medical superintendent Dr Adarsh Kumar, he said nodal officers would be asked to take action and police would be directed to have the shops removed soon.

However, despite the authorities indicating that the problem is new, it is not.

A cigarette shop owner outside Safdarjung Hospital, whose shop has been there for four years now and who knew that the sale was illegal, said he has never been questioned about the sale of tobacco-related products, nor inspections have ever been carried out.
A senior police officer in GTB Hospital said it was not practically possible to control the menace, either inside or outside the hospital.

“People find their own spots to smoke. There are thousands of people coming here everyday and the hospital area is huge. It is not possible to keep tabs on all,” he said. He, however, had no answer to the issue of shops just outside.

Amit Yadav of HRIDAY, an NGO working for eradication of tobacco use, said the hospitals should be held directly responsible for the problem.

“If authorities are not taking action, as per rules, they are liable to be penalised four times the fine for each person’s offence,” he said.

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