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Issue of Smoking in Public Places

Issue of Smoking in Public Places, naya haryana, नया हरियाणा

1st September 2014

Naya Haryana

Smoking in India has been known since at least 2000 BC when cannabis was smoked. This has been mentioned in the Atharvaveda. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India is home to 12% of the world's smokers and almost a million people die every year in India due to smoking.

Smoking in public places was prohibited nationwide from 2 October 2008 as hundreds of thousands of people who never smoked died each year by inhaling smoke from other people's cigarettes and bidis.

Yet, the state government has failed to curb smoking in public areas and this has also given rise to passive smoking. This is a cause of worry. Data from several studies indicate that smoking is a major cause of heart attacks in the state. While a recent study showed that 46 per cent males are active smokers in the state, what is causing concern is that even the percentage of female smokers too is growing fast in the state in the absence of any check. Experts say avoiding tobacco products reduces the risk of heart attacks by 27 per cent.

A study shows that the state government has failed in creating public awareness on the ill effects of smoking in public. What is more concerning is that the ban on smoking in public places has no takers even at government offices. Media reports time and again have suggested that several officials themselves flout rules by smoking openly at government establishments.

Can we blame the community smoking pipe culture in Haryana for the people's habit of smoking in public places? This culture is prevalent for long in the state and is even attributed to the emancipation of man in the overarching male dominated society of the state.

A study at MD University, Rohtak, showed that the important reason for urge was smoking in ceremonies i. e. in gatherings, functions in company of friends followed by urge while drinking alcohol. The study explained peer pressure and the fun loving tendency to be among the major reasons for continuation of smoking.

It may be mentioned that smoking ban did not prohibit consumption of hookah but several cities in India, including Gurgaon, Faridabad and Panchkula, have banned consumption of hookah in hookah bars.

Yet unlike Maharashtra, which banned Hookah bars across the state, the Haryana government could not show the same resolve to ban Hookah bars in the state and rather strangely remained rather selective in its approach. Yet, even in the cities, where it banned Hookah bars, they do operate clandestinely or with official connivance in pubs and malls. Time and again this fact has come to light a recent example being in a pub in a Gurgaon mall where 100 school chidren were found smoking Hookah and someone made a complaint.

This incident indeed showed the failure of the government to take cognizance of a Public Interest Litigation in the high court in 2011 either, that provided names of several towns of Haryana where the consumption and sales of nicotine products was going on unabated in public places.

It is interesting that in 2012, the Haryana government also decided to ban food articles containing nicotine and tobacco. But it failed in its implementation either, as Gutkhas and chewing tobaccos still sells across the state.

Smoking is an addiction and unlike other vices, it is hard to give up smoking because cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance found naturally in tobacco.

Surveys have found that even though 80% of smokers would like to quit smoking, less than five percent are able to do so. Besides smokers also have to deal with the psychological aspect of smoking that triggers and exacerbates the urge to smoke.

So, what could be the solution for de-addiction from smoking?

Indeed banning smoking in public places was a right step initiated by the Centre to discourage smoking.

Besides, there is an urgent need for:

More and more de-addiction camps for smokers to handle the psychological aspect of smoking.

Discouraging the widely prevalent tradition of Hookah smoking in the villages and towns. This requires a sustained campaign through media.

A widespread awareness campaign through local authorities to discourage smoking in general and in public places in particular.

Class room education to young school children about the ills of smoking.

A dedicated fund for running anti-smoking campaigns in the state.

Yet, to ensure so, the state government needs a firm resolve. So far Haryana has failed to check smoking in public places and even to implement effectively its ban on Hookah bars and sale of tobacco products. What is required is strict enforcement of the legal provisions in this regard. The state has failed on this front also.

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