The Telegraph
Saturday , May 31 , 2014
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Norms hazy in smoke

The temperature at the burning end of a lit cigarette is around 650 degrees C

Chewing tobacco products (gutkha) for half-an-hour is equal to smoking four cigarettes

According to the Center for Disease Control, Atlanta, smoking one cigarette reduces the life expectancy of a person by 10 minutes

According to studies of World Health Organisation, the daily death in India because of consumption of tobacco products is over 2,100

The harmful effects cited above notwithstanding, the city continues to be a den of deadly tobacco addicts.

The strict norms laid down in Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (Cotpa), 2003 for regulation on the sale and consumption of tobacco products are yet to make much impact. According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey Report 2009-2010 (GATS), 54 per cent adults (66 per cent men and 40 per cent women) use tobacco in some form or the other in Bihar. Nearly 15 per cent in the age group of 13-15 consume tobacco (Global Youth Tobacco Survey-2009), while 27.4 per cent boys and 8.3 per cent girls between 15 and 24 use it.

Such a situation prevails when the state health department is pursuing the mission of “Smoke Free Bihar” from the past year. Also, Patna and Munger are the two districts covered under the tobacco control programme of Bihar State Health Society (BSHS) from 2008. Around Rs 10 lakh per annum was spent till the past year for carrying out various activities, including installation of cautionary signage, prohibitory advertisements and awareness programmes in schools, colleges and other establishments.

On the eve of World No Tobacco Day, The Telegraph conducted a reality check of implementation of the norms regulating consumption of tobacco at public places and restricted areas. The outcome was scary. The Cotpa rules were being blatantly violated.

Cigarettes and gutkhas could be bought on the premises of health hubs like Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS); smokers were seen in aplenty at public places like Mithapur bus stand, Regent Fun Cinemas and Maurya Lok Complex.

None of the bars in the city have followed the provision of creating smoking zones. Even a school student could easily buy cigarette or gutkha.

The effective implementation of tobacco-related norms, including prohibition of smoking in public places, display of prohibitory messages and provision of smoking zones at bars is looked after by BSHS, the district administration and the civic body.

The district tobacco control co-ordination committee, headed by the district magistrate, looks after the effective implementation of the different norms across the entire district. As Patna district magistrate N. Saravana Kumar was on leave on Friday, The Telegraph asked deputy development commissioner Seema Tripathi about the reason behind the violation of norms related to sale and consumption of tobacco.

“In the last meeting of the district committee, a number of officers, including the block development officers, were authorised to fine people found smoking in public places. I cannot furnish the quantum of fine collected from the offenders but I admit that such cases are not very high. We would be able to nab more offenders if people complain to us regarding the violation of tobacco products-related norms,” said Tripathi.

A source in BSHS said only Rs 26,290 was collected as fine from 170 offenders in the city over the past six months.

“According to the theme of the World No Tobacco Day this year (raise taxes on tobacco), we shall pursue the state government to hike the respective taxes. We shall also send a proposal to the central government for inclusion of more districts under the tobacco control programme,” said the state controller of tobacco control cell, BSHS.

Government agencies apart, private establishments like hotels and restaurants are also required to regulate tobacco consumption. Sumit Khera, owner of Pind Balluchi restaurant, said: “Smoking is not allowed at bars and restaurants across the country but Patna has remained an exception. If the government initiates steps for the implementation of the norms, we shall provide all possible support.”