Udupi: Dare to Smoke in Public Places? Then Pay through the Nose!

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Udupi: Smoking in public has been so rampant these days. Because of lack of awareness – and to some extent absence of sensitivity towards others – smokers keep literally fuming at others.

What is most shocking is that at street-ends and bus-stops these ‘chimneys’ can be seen operating, in total disregard of the presence of students, women and children. Any expression of resentment is looked down upon with kind of an ‘I-have-paid-for-it-so-what-is-your-problem’ response.


When celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan can say, as he did when disallowed from entering a cricket venue for smoking, that it is suppression of his ‘creativity’, what do we expect of poor mortals or the man on the street?

If one can equate burning of tobacco in public and ruining others’ lungs with creativity, it is a serious syndrome – begging a dire need to suspect the intelligent quotient of the person or a need of psychological counselling.

That would also give anyone an impression that the smokers think that they are doing a social service by paying for the fag and distributing the benefit to the public, absolutely free of cost. Even if this is in a lighter vein, many non-smokers may not be amused.

All the deterrent measures taken and statutory warnings issued by the government do not appear to have succeeded in bringing about any improvement in the situation. A higher degree of awareness is to be spread around to meet the menace.

Among the three coastal districts, Udupi seems to be going on a war-footing against public smoking. Earlier this week, the district police conducted a workshop not only to create awareness about the hazards of smoking but also the implications from the point of view of law.

Superintendent of police K Annamalai warned that strict action would be taken against those violating the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, known in short as COTPA.

Statistics showed that during the preceding fortnight, the cops in the district made a kill by going after the violators by registering 447 cases and levying a total of Rs 66,750 by way of fines. Manipal town had the highest number of offenders.

Display of promotion material about tobacco products too invites a fine of Rs 1,000 and two years in jail for the first offence. Repeat violations could mean a fine of Rs 5,000 and 5 years in jail. The competent officials to act are only those of inspector’s rank and above. (That does not mean one could ignore the presence of a mere constable.)

If the tobacco products are sold without the statutory warning printed on them, a fine of Rs 5,000 would be slapped on the manufacturer in the first instance. Repeat offence would mean a fine of Rs 10,000, besides a jail from 2 to 5 years.

Hotels, restaurants and airports are to be absolutely tobacco-free. In hotels withe 30 rooms and above, a separate smoking zone should be provided. Clear instructions about smoking and non-smoking should be prominently displayed. Sale of tobacco products, cigarettes, bidis and the like is prohibited within the radius of 100 metres from educational institutions.

Sale of such products to those below 18 years of age is prohibited. Fifteen days’ deadline has been allowed to install signboards to this effect.

The campaign in Udupi began in right earnest all right. But the security arrangements for a massive meeting that took place later appear to have diluted and diverted the focus and thrust. The situation appears to be back to square one.

The nature and implications of COTPA (from official sources)

The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 or COTPA is an Act of Parliament of India enacted in 2003 to prohibit advertisement and regulation of tobacco business in India.

The Act puts restriction on tobacco products including cigarettes, gutka, pan masala (containing tobacco), cigar, cheroot, bidi, snuff, chewing tobacco, hookah, tooth powder containing tobacco etc.

The Act prohibits smoking of tobacco in public places, except in special smoking zones in hotels, restaurants and airports and open spaces.

Places where smoking is restricted include auditoriums, movie theatres, hospitals, public transport (aircraft, buses, trains, metros, monorails and taxis) and their related facilities (airports, bus stands/stations, railway stations), restaurants, hotels, bars, pubs, amusement centres, offices (government and private), libraries, courts, post offices, markets, shopping malls, canteens, refreshment rooms, banquet halls, discothèques, coffee houses, educational institutions and parks.

Smoking is allowed inside one’s home or vehicle. The meaning of open space has been extended to mean such spaces which are visited by public, and includes open auditorium, stadium and bus stands.

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