India on Thursday once again imposed a countrywide ban on smoking in public spaces in its fight against tobacco use, four years after a largely ignored earlier prohibition saw people continue to puff away in restaurants, clubs and bars.The ban, aimed at the country's 120 million smokers, has received a good response from people across the country,Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss asserted.
"It is a continuous process, ... and the message will go across through repeated awareness campaigns by the government and the media," Ramadoss, a tireless anti-smoking campaigner, told reporters.
The new order bars smoking in hotels, eateries, cafes, pubs, bars, discotheques, offices, airports, railway stations, bus stops, shopping malls and parks. People can continue to smoke in private homes and open spaces.The new ban has directed establishments to appoint anti-smoking officers who will be liable if people smoke.
Britain, France, Ireland and Thailand are among the countries that already have similar bans in place.
The fine for violating India's order is 200 rupees (4.29 dollars), but health authorities said higher fines of up to 25 dollars were being contemplated.
The new Smoking in Public Places Rules 2008 came into force on the anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi the Father of Nation, who was known for his ascetic habits.
Citing a survey that found that 52 per cent of children took up smoking after watching film stars lighting up on the screen, Ramadoss appealed to Bollywood celebrities not to encourage smoking.
"People look up to celebrities and follow them," the minister said. "Our popular film star Rajnikanth has stopped smoking in movies. Other stars should also set an example."
Besides the police, government officers; inspectors of central excise, sales tax, transport and health departments; and principals of schools have been given powers to fine violators on their respective premises.
Officials acknowledged that enforcement might not be easy.
India is the third-largest tobacco producer and consumer in the world after China and the United States.
According to a Health Ministry release, more than 2,200 Indians die every day from tobacco use. They are at risk from cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks, strokes and cancer.
A recent study by a team of doctors showed that tobacco smoking would kill 1 million people annually beginning in 2010.
Saying India is in the midst of a "catastrophic epidemic of smoking deaths," the doctors warned that nearly 70 per cent of the million deaths would take place among smokers in their prime.
In this large, nationally representative case–control study, it was found that in both rural and urban India, among men between the ages of 30 and 69 years, the rate of death from any medical cause in smokers was 1.7 times that in nonsmokers of similar age, educational level, and alcohol status (use or nonuse). Among female smokers, mortality from any medical cause was double that among their nonsmoking counterparts.
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