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Smokers under fire in House

New Delhi, April 30: Smoke may soon have no place in Parliament — except the kind that comes out of ears.

After the huffing in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha, members pour into the Central Hall or the lobby to puff. And that is now under threat.

Non-smoking MPs complained in the House today that in the Central Hall and lobby, they were being subjected to passive smoking.

Pranab Mukherjee lights up his trademark pipe, rookie Rajya Sabha member Vijay Mallya — very aptly for a liquor baron — sucks on his fatcat cigar and no one has ever seen CPM young gun Nilotpal Basu outside the ring of cigarette smoke.

Last year, the Supreme Court banned smoking in public places, but that has been no deterrence to MPs, cutting across political divides — Sontosh Mohan of the Cong-ress, B.P. Singhal of the BJP, Telugu Desam’s Yerran Naidu, Samajwadi Party’s Beni Prasad Verma.

Now, the non-smokers are suggesting that if you can’t take the tobacco away, remove the ashtrays.

Objecting to smoking on the Parliament premises, BJP member Anadicharan Sahu said: “Anybody can smoke in private, but not in the Central Hall. If you want to smoke, go out. We passive smokers face a lot of difficulty.”

The members were discussing a Bill banning advertisements for cigarettes, bidis and other tobacco products. The Bill, piloted by health and parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, and passed by the Rajya Sabha on April 9, was adopted by the Lok Sabha after a discussion spanning over four hours.

Congress MP Margaret Alva, who was in the chair, said in jest that “those supporting the Bill should become non-smokers”.

Senior CPM member V. Radhakrishnan said all ashtrays should be removed from Parliament to set an example.

“Please remove all ashtrays kept in the lobby and Central Hall. I see so many MPs smoking because there are ashtrays. The government of India should implement the Supreme Court directive (banning smoking in public places). Till we quit smoking we have no moral right to lecture,” he said.

Sushma Swaraj agreed with the suggestion to remove ashtrays and told MPs she would take up the matter with Speaker Manohar Joshi.

What if the ashtrays are removed, but the smoking continues' Knowing smokers, they won’t mind the litter on the floor of Parliament.

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