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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Next year, smoking in corridor of power not fine

Bureaucrats, beware! Dare not smoke or consume raw tobacco or paan (betel) in public in the state secretariat in the new year. You will be penalised.

Well, that does not mean the corridor of power would be a no-tobacco zone. There would be some specified places to smoke or chew tobacco.

The move, senior officers of the state health department said, was a step towards making the city smoke-free.

Vyasji, principal secretary, health, said: “We have been requesting other departments to help us in our bid to make Patna smoke-free. But we need to take up the initiative. So we have decided that both the buildings of the secretariat will have some designated smoking rooms. We are chalking out the plans before we start implementing the ban next year.”

Sources said the department was also contemplating a ban on chewing paan or tobacco in the secretariat buildings.

“Fine would be imposed on violators but the amount has not yet been decided. Smoking in public places is unlawful. Paan and tobacco users often spit the residue anywhere they please, causing filth,” said a health department official.

According to Section 4 of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003, a fine of Rs 200 is imposed on those found smoking in public.

Vyasji, the principal health secretary, said one of the main objectives of his department was to involve the police and form a special raid team to keep a stringent check on the sale, purchase and manufacture of gutkha.

“Since the state government imposed a ban on the manufacture, sale and purchase of gutkha in the state on May 30 this year, gutkha worth Rs 1 crore has been seized across Bihar. Our focus is on the formation of a dedicated raid team, consisting of policemen, to keep a strict check on public smoking. The police have a major role to play in this and talks with them are on,” the principal secretary added.

Last week, the State Health Society, Bihar, had organised a high-level consultation programme on effective implementation of tobacco-control measures under the aegis of the health department. Senior officials explained that smokeless tobacco consumption, which refers to consumption of raw tobacco (khaini) in Bihar, was highest in the country.

In Bihar, 53.5 per cent of the population consume tobacco and allied products. Around 5.9 per cent people smoke cigarettes, 8.4 per cent are habituated to bidis, while a whopping 49 per cent people are addicted to smokeless tobacco.

“Several departments had taken part in the meeting held last week. They were asked to help us make Patna a smoke-free city. At present, the minutes of the meeting are being prepared and decisions would be taken thereafter,” said Vyasji.