Should India Implement Tobacco-Free Cities?
World Health Organisation’s (WHO) report has pointed out that the prevalence of smoking tobacco has dropped significantly from 19.4% to 11.5% during 2000-2005. The report also projects a further drop to 9.8% and 8.5% by 2020 and 2025 respectively. As a part of the Tobacco Free Initiative, a 52-page research article was published by the WHO – “Making cities smoke-free”. As cities can pass legislation more swiftly than at the national level, the notion of tobacco-free cities came into existence. To provide Indian citizens a better quality of life, it has become a necessity for India to consider tobacco-free cities.
Tobacco Use in India and Challenges
The report has observed that relentless lobbying from the tobacco industry has impeded the effect of introducing strong tobacco control policies. But India’s tobacco woes don’t revolve around smoking only. A vast population of India (3/4th of the total number of tobacco users) chews tobacco. Anti-tobacco activists are upset with the government that there is a significant lack of policies and measures for tackling tobacco chewing and pan masala.
WHO’s “World No Tobacco Day 2019” (on May 31) focused on “tobacco and lung health” where they emphasized the fact that tobacco use not only causes cancer but also chronic respiratory diseases. Last year they focused on the fact that tobacco literally breaks people’s heart, as its use increases cardiovascular risks significantly.
Smoke Free Cities and States in India
In India, there are some cities that are completely smoke-free and are declared so officially. The top smoke free places in India are:
– Chandigarh: This is the first city in India that was declared smoke-free, back in 2007. It is a Union Territory that is the capital of both Haryana and Punjab.
– Kottayam: This Kerala city was also declared smoke-free in 2007.
– Shimla: Shimla is a picturesque city on the hills, which was declared smoke-free in 2010.
– Kohima: The hilly capital city of Nagaland once housed the maximum number of smokers. However, relentless anti-tobacco campaigns helped the city achieve the unthinkable. It became the latest city to be declared smoke-free.
Besides these cities, there are two states in India that are also declared smoke free. The first state was Sikkim (back in 2010) and the second Himachal Pradesh. In most of these places, sustained campaigns mounted by NGOs and students achieved the desired results.
What are Smoke Free Cities Actually?
Smoke free cities generally implement certain rules and regulations:
– Smoking cigarettes or any tobacco product is completely banned in the public places (railway stations, bus stands, restaurants, taxis, public transport, pubs, hotels, or others).
– Open and other areas are prohibited for smoking uses.
– Police officers are empowered to take action against any person smoking in public areas.
– Smokers caught throwing half burnt buds are liable to monetary fines by city authorities.
– Tobacco outlets are required to paste at least 2 posters of minimum 30 cm × 60 cm size outside their shop. The banners of posters should read “Sale of tobacco or its products to a person of less than 18 years of age is an offense.”
As a welfare state, India must take good care of its citizen’s health. For this reason, there is an increased need of declaring more and more cities smoke and tobacco free. Unlike other western countries, in India a vast majority of the tobacco users chew tobacco. So, the smoke free cities must also take care of this fact to get rid of tobacco completely.
Major metro cities must also be made tobacco free so that the campaign of getting rid of tobacco gains momentum across India. Only declaring cities as smoke or tobacco free is not enough. Administration should be adequately empowered and regular check-ups must be put into place so that no person gets to smoke or use tobacco publicly.