No check on smoking in public

No check on smoking in public

Bangaloreans can be seen smoking in public spaces without any fear of being fined by the authorities.

With the anti-tobacco cell of the BBMP in ruins due to lack of funds, the rule that smoking in public places is an offence exists only in papers.

According to Section 4 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), smoking in public places is an offence.

As per the National Tobacco Control Act, if someone is caught smoking in a public place, he or she has to pay a fine of Rs 200. Dr SK Savitha, nodal officer, district anti-tobacco cell of BBMP, says that most of the staff have not even been getting their salaries.

“We have not been getting salary since September leave alone funds. We have been given a vehicle for our work and even that is lying around as there are no funds for petrol. No funds have been disbursed for the chalans as well,” she says.

“Some funds had been collected for our cell by the BBMP and we were told to give chalans and use a part of the funds for our salary. This was told to us at a meeting with the principal secretary of health and family welfare held last month. But the decision is still pending. Why should we work without any help and support?” she asks.

Dr P Jagannath, state consultant, Karnataka, National Tobacco Control Programme, clarifies that until last year, the department was headed by the Ministry of Health but the National Health Mission has taken over the department this year.

 “Until they release the funds, no salaries and funds can be allotted for the work,” he notes. With no one to check, the rule is being broken everywhere in the City.

Non-smokers feel that the authorities are not strict enough.

“People can often be seen smoking in and around small roadside shops which sell tobacco items. What is astonishing is that the police fine people for every other offence but not this. Even when people smoke in front of a traffic constable or police, they look through them and walk away. There are people who object to public smoking and find it discomforting and smokers need to respect that,” says Ankit, a professional.

Many say that they have often spotted people smoking inside the auto and outside hotels and restaurants but there is hardly any intervention.

“I feel that many young people take up smoking because they think it is fashionable and makes them fit in a group. Roads and public spaces are where they can be seen
puffing away with friends and that inspires more people to do it. I feel extremely uncomfortable to stand next to a smoker. I usually end up asking them to move, but it is the job of the police to fine them,” adds Deepak, a student.

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