Bhubaneswar, July 5: Smoke is very much in the air in Bhubaneswar though it has been almost two years that the city was declared “smoke-free”.
On October 27, 2010, health minister Prasanna Acharya said the capital would be the fifth city in the country — after Simla, Kottayam, Chandigarh and Gangtok — to be declared as smoke-free (report published in The Telegraph on October 28, 2010).
However, in reality, smokers continue to violate the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003. The Act bans smoking in public places, such as educational institutions, hospitals, auditoriums, restaurants, public transport, government buildings, courts, stadiums, railway stations, workplaces, shopping malls among others. Offenders can be fined up to Rs 200.
While many people are not even aware of the Cotpa, those who have heard of it couldn’t care two hoots about the law.
Statistics show that the Bhubaneswar police penalised 5,895 violators under the act in 2010 and 12,061 in 2011. Fines to the tune of Rs 6,85,950 and Rs 12,13,750, respectively, were collected in 2010 and 2011.
However, despite this, smokers can be spotted everywhere though Section 4 of the act prohibits smoking at public places.
Similarly, Section 6 of Cotpa prohibits sale of tobacco within 100 metres of educational institutions. But tobacco kiosks can be spotted near various educational institutions in the capital and youngsters can be seen lighting up with impunity.
However, the police say for them to take action local residents need to inform them regularly about kiosks selling tobacco products near educational institutions.
“Though we have raided many tobacco kiosks near educational institutions in the past, even residents need to act in a proactive manner and register complaints against these shops regularly,” said assistant commissioner of police, (Zone-1) Nihar Ranjan Das.
But local residents think otherwise.
“Despite a ban on smoking in public places, one can spot smokers across the city. It happens because the police do not act regularly. They only act at times. What they need to do is crack down on the violators regularly,” said Sadashiv Barik, a resident of Satyanagar.
“The act also prohibits sale of tobacco products to minors but here violations are blatant,” said another local resident.
Another area of major concern are the kiosks set up by Odisha State Cooperative Milk Producers Federation Limited (Omfed), as most of these sell tobacco products.
Social activists feel that a blanket ban on production and selling of tobacco products is necessary.
“We have been organising awareness campaigns throughout the city. But the government needs to put a blanket ban on production and sale of gutkhas in the state,” said city-based social activist Itishree Kanungo.
What do you think is making the smoking ban ineffective in Bhubaneswar? Tell email@example.com