Chennai/New Delhi, Oct 2 : Union Heath Minister Anbumani Ramadoss distributed pamphlets on smoking-ban in Chennai on Thursday the day when about 1.2 billion people have been forbidden by the law from lighting up in all public places including bars, offices, bus stands.
India marked the 139 birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, by imposing the world's biggest smoking ban from Thursday.
Those violating the law would have to shell out 200 as fine - equivalent to a day's wages for many.
Private homes and roads are just about a few places left out.
"I will consider this as a success only when all the tobacco products in India are banned. Till then, the fight goes on. It is not as if I am fighting against the smokers. I am fighting for non-smokers. Every non-smoker has the right to have a smoke free atmosphere," said Ramadoss.
Ramadoss also appealed actors to stop smoking on screen saying that people tend to imitate their favourite stars. He said that he had already requested Tamil actor Rajnikanth for that and he had already stopped doing smoking scenes. In New Delhi, people welcomed the Government's move.
"People who smoke inhale carbon dioxide and those who stand next to them inhale carbon monoxide. The passive smokers should ask the smokers not to smoke in public places. The government has banned smoking in public places. That is one thing but even the people should protest against this," said N. K Singh, a resident.
The government has shrugged off complaints from cigarette companies and bar owners that it is exceeding its authority. It says it is determined to educate young and often illiterate population about the dangers of smoking and drinking.
The government believes that 40 per cent of country's health problems are linked to tobacco. About 250 million Indians use it and an increased rate of smoking among women, combined with a surge in the popularity of chewing tobacco, are raising concerns.
Exacerbated by the shift in lifestyles as a newly prosperous middle class succumbs to an epidemic of "Western style", ailments such as lung cancer and heart diseases alone is set to end more lives per year in India by 2015 than all infectious illnesses including diarrhoea, tuberculosis and malaria combined, World Health Organisation (WHO) figures suggest.
Health experts admit that implementation will take time, but say passive smoking kills and people have a right not to subject their health to risk against their wishes.
However, everyone agrees that much will depend on compliance rather than enforcement. Past attempts to ban spitting and urinating in public in India drew little success.