Enforcement of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production Supply and Distribution ) Act, 2003 (COTPA) appears to have taken a back seat in the city for lack of coordination among various agencies.
The COTPA bans smoking in public places and violators can be fined Rs 200. Anybody failing to pay Rs 200 for smoking in public places can be arrested and produced before magistrate. The police say that nobody has been arrested so far in the city so far.
The Act empowers various departments and officials to levy fine. They include: heads of educational institutions, assistant commissioners of labour department, health inspectors, police department officials, heath officers of local bodies, office-bearers of panchayat raj institutions, finance heads of district health programmes at district-level, district hospital health officers, PHC officers, CHOs, education and health departments directors, block development officers, nodal officers of National Tobacco Control Programme.
There is no coordination among these officers and hence people are seen smoking even in at railway stations, Kempegowda bus terminus, Cubbon Park, Lalbagh, Vidhana Soudha, Vikasa Soudha, and campuses of educational institutions.
Nothing much has been done except displaying boards against smoking, the police say. “It’s a social issue that needs awareness and education. Mere enforcement will not end the problem. Imposing penalty on violators is not police department’s priority,” Bengaluru City Police Commissioner N S Megharik said and added: “ The police are coordinating with other agencies to levy penalty.”
Some officers say COTPA enforcement’s failure was due to the complicated nature of the act itself. “ The provisions of the Act are such that, it is very difficult to enforce them. You can’t blame the police for poor enforcement as they are occupied with too many tasks. There needs to be an exclusive enforcing authority,” says former IGP Gopal B Hosur.
Deputy Directors of Public Instruction (DDPIs) should submit a monthly online inspection report regarding the section 6 of COTPA to Additional SPs or DySPs at district levels, but neither the DDPIs nor the Additional SPs or DySPs are bothered about the guidelines. Education department officers rarely submit the report to DCPs in city, added the police. The police estimate that there are more than two crore tobacco consumers in the state and more than one-third of them die a premature death due to cancer, heart and lung diseases.