The state health society distributed 1,90,000 challans this month to penalise people smoking at public places.
The administration of 11 districts, including Patna, has constituted anti-tobacco squads. They would move around public places, including bus stops and railway stations, to penalise people found consuming tobacco in any form. Deputy superintendents of police have also issued challans to fine the offenders.
Apart from the squads, District Tobacco Control Coordination Committees headed by the respective district magistrates have been formed in nine districts. They would look after the effective implementation and monitoring of Section 4 of Control of Tobacco Products Act, 2003.
N.K. Mishra, the state programme officer of Tobacco Control Cell, BSHS, told The Telegraph on Thursday: “Tobacco consumption has become a chronic issue in the state. According to the recent estimates, 54 per cent of the total population of Bihar consumes tobacco in some form or the other. The state government has taken up this issue very seriously. Though the deadline for “Smoke Free Bihar” has not been finalised yet, the desired outcome would start trickling in within a couple of months. We are focusing on the district- and village-level in the initial stages. We are coordinating with various departments including home, education, finance, agriculture and labour resources among others for an overall fight against tobacco.”
According to sources, chief secretary Ashok Kumar Sinha recently asked the education department to find out whether the number of people consuming tobacco in the state had increased or decreased over the past 50 years.
“The anti-tobacco squads and the police have been asked to keep a strong vigil on the sale of tobacco by/to minors. Talks are also being held to start mass drive against the sale of tobacco within 100m radius of schools, colleges and hospitals with the help of the police,” said Maqsood Alam, state controller, Tobacco Control Cell, BSHS.
Several NGOs have been roped in for installing anti-tobacco signage and hoardings at shops. The health department has started distributing signage of specified length to shopkeepers in lieu of Rs 20.
The state health society would also raid the restaurants and bars with seating capacity of more than 30 but without isolated smoking zones.