Jorhat, Oct. 15: The state health department and the Assam unit of the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) have asked the districts to create a list of public places which qualify as no smoking zones under the central anti-tobacco law, COPTA.
If anyone is caught smoking in such areas, there are provisions under COPTA (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution Act, 2004) for imposing fines.
A data bank containing the list of all public places with their location will be made available in the districts and the compiled data will be centrally stored by the NTCP.
According to the provisions of COPTA, smoking is prohibited in public places where non-smokers are also present. Offices, shopping malls, airports, train and bus stations, hotels, cinema halls, hospitals, shops and restaurants have been described as public places under this law.
NTCP (Assam) nodal officer Arundhati Deka, who is also the deputy director of health department, told The Telegraph that every district has been asked to carry out a survey of all public places and make a category-wise list of them, including the total number of places and their locations.
She said that a data bank would be prepared in each district from which a central data bank would be made.
“It is very necessary to have detailed information about the number of public places and their locations because the anti-tobacco law can be enforced accordingly,” Deka said.
With the government extending the anti-tobacco campaign from two districts, Jorhat and Kamrup (metro), to the rest of the 25 districts, a proper data bank will come in handy to enforce COPTA, she said.
Jorhat and Kamrup (metro) are part of the 42 districts in 21 states across the country where the anti-tobacco campaign has been under way as a pilot project since October 2007.
Every district will initially start the campaign under the direct control of the deputy commissioners who will constitute teams — comprising officials from health department, police, excise and other government departments — till a district-level tobacco control cell is set up in a district, Deka said.
The districts have been directed to prepare action plans (with a budget) with health department taking the lead. Taking the Jorhat district tobacco control cell as a model, they will hold awareness campaigns and also impose penalties by issuing challans to people caught smoking in public places.
Deka said receipt books to impose fines were printed and were being dispatched to the districts.
“Once the Centre sanctions funds for the campaign, the cells (anti-tobacco) will be opened in the districts,” Deka said.
She also said the health department had justified the proposed ban of gutkha by providing statistics that people spend much more money on treating diseases caused by consuming tobacco than money collected as revenue from selling them.
The official said that the ban on gutkha was awaiting cabinet approval.