Sharp hike in penalty for smokers in public places on anvil

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New Delhi, May 30 (UNI) Those smoking in public places could, after tomorrow, face the unenviable prospect of being fined an exorbitant amount of up to Rs 1000.

According to Delhi Health Minister Yoganand Shastri, the fine for those smoking in public places could be hiked several fold, from Rs 200 at present, to as high as Rs 1000 from tomorrow, the World No Tobacco Day.

''On the occasion tomorrow, the Centre is likely to hike the amount of fine against those smoking in public places, from Rs 200 to as much as Rs 1000,'' Mr Shastri told newspersons here.

Further, as part of its efforts to help achieve the target of smoke free Delhi by 2009, the Delhi Government has planned several steps including setting up of mobile courts to penalise smokers in public places, establishing tobacco cessation clinics to help people quit smoking and empowering the resident associations of every area to levy a fine on those found smoking at public places.

''To achieve a smoke free Delhi by 2009, the Delhi Government, with support from the Delhi Legal Services Authority, will set up four to five mobile courts dealing solely with task of penalising those found smoking at public places,'' the State Health Minister said.

Further, two tobacco cessation clinics have been set up to help people quit smoking. Nine more such clinics are in the offing, he added.

Mr Shastri said enforcement mechanisms for tobacco control laws with eight raiding squads have been functioning in Delhi.

''The enforcement squads impose fine on an average of 4000 people or institutions a year. In the year 2007-08, enforcement squads raided 12085 indoor public places and 17008 public transport vehicles.

In these raids, a total 5757 (5739 males and 18 females) people were caught red-handed smoking during the raids in public places and 161 commuters were also fined during the period.

To strengthen the monitoring of air nicotine in various indoor places, the Delhi Government, along with the Centre, have collaborated with the John Hopkins School of Public Health in the US to set up 160 monitors at various places in the city to assess the indoor air quality of different public places as a baseline survey. Subsequently, the monitoring of air nicotine will continue on a periodic basis.

''In Delhi, at present, 28 per cent of the people indulge in smoking, which comes to 46 lakh people. In this context, the monitors will monitor the nicotine level in various areas,'' Mr Shastri said.

The World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) is observed on May 31 every year to draw the attention of common masses towards the ill effects of tobacco. This year is dedicated to all youth who are unknowingly becoming the victims of the tobacco net.

The Delhi Health Minister said this exercise would help the Government to strengthen the scientific evidence of second-hand smoke or environment tobacco smoke. In this scientific process, an orientation training has already been conducted by the US university for the Delhi team.

He said a detailed roadmap was being prepared to make Delhi smoke free. That included, on one hand, creating awareness among smokers about the severe penalties that they could be liable for if they indulge in smoking in public places, and on the other hand, it also involves making non-smokers aware of their rights to a smoke free environmment.

The Minister said compared to a decade ago, there was greater awareness among people in Delhi about the ill-effects of smoking which was evident from the fact that there had been a sharp drop in the number of people indulging in smoking while driving.

UNI AR GL AS1700

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