Killer stick: A man smokes away to glory at Albert Ekka Chowk in Ranchi on Thursday. (Hardeep Singh)
Ranchi, Aug. 22: No, it is not World No Tobacco Day, May 31, but the Hemant Soren government seems to have suddenly woken up to the perils of public smoking, if today’s advertisements of “dhumrapaan nished” for “swasthya Jharkhand” are any indication.
The advertisements, printed on behalf of the state public relations department, a portfolio held by the chief minister, have Hemant’s photograph and directives on implementing the ban on smoking in public places.
In India, The Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, came into force in 2004.
Jharkhand slept on the Act till 2007-08.
Then, it swung into action for a few months to “spread awareness” against the nationwide ban on smoking in public places. Then, as suddenly, the flurry around enforcing the ban turned to ash. Sources in state health department, the nodal agency entrusted with the task of implementing anti-tobacco and no-smoking rules, can’t say why this happened.
Now, health department mandarins are vouching for the fact that Jharkhand is again gearing up to reinforce the ban by 2013-end.
“We are working out the logistics and modalities,” said H.B. Barwar, state nodal officer of National Tobacco Control Programme, who took charge in April.
The state public relations department has also highlighted a toll-free number (1800-110-456) now and directed establishments to immediately remove any ad related to glamorising tobacco consumption.
The state ad also specified a format to all establishments and public places on how to declare them no-smoking zones.
“No-smoking stickers are a must in public places. The sticker size should be 60cmx30cm. Violators will be fined Rs 200,” read the injunction.
According to Barwar, all mandates are enshrined in the 2003 Act. “Lack of awareness is the problem,” he said. “Which is why we are launching a massive drive before cracking the whip. Logistic support, manpower, accountability will be identified and fixed to implement the Act in full force.”
In the past decade, hardly any challans or penalties were imposed on smokers in public places. This would change, officials promised.
Jharkhand’s past record of enforcing bans has been poor.
Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, under its Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011, restricted use of products with substance that are injurious to health. Jharkhand was among the states to ban gutkha and pan masala, but the prohibition remains toothless.
The state pollution control board has put papers in order on the ban on plastic below 50 microns, but the state hasn’t yet issued a notification.