Thursday, Jul 18, 2002
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By K.V.S. Madhav
Smokers beware. The Andhra Pradesh Prohibition of Smoking and Health Protection Act, 2002, has come into force and people smoking in public places in the State are bound to be penalised, and even picked up by the police.
``We are just following the instructions we got,'' was all the tight-lipped officials of ITC and VST ventured to say. The Act, listing out a series of radical steps, bans advertisement or promotion of smoking in any form, imposes penalties for smoking in banned places and even imprisonment for clandestine sale of cigarettes.
Almost a fortnight has passed by since the Governor, C. Rangarajan, gave his assent to what is said to be the most stringent anti-smoking Act in the country, declaring that its provisions would be in force from July 4 onwards, and the general public in the information savvy State is blissfully unaware of the orders.
It is business as usual everywhere for cigarette vendors as well as smokers. Why was an order of this magnitude released so silently is the moot point?
Released four months after the State Assembly passed a Bill on prohibition of smoking in places of public work or public use, the Act declares auditoria, amusement centres, cinema halls, restaurants, hotels, pubs, function halls, monuments and stadia, shops and shopping complexes, hospital buildings, health and educational institutions, libraries, Court buildings, public offices and public conveyance as non-smoking zones. Sale of cigarettes within a 100-metre radius of educational institutions is also banned.
Incharges of non-smoking establishments, be it the driver and conductor of a bus, theatre managers, principal of an educational institution or gazetted officers of public offices have been authorised to challan those defying the Act! Similarly, "any police officer not below the rank of sub-inspector, may banish any person who contravenes the provisions from the place of public work or use.''
Predictably, the Act has had smokers fume, while some of its provisions -- ban on sale of cigarettes within 100 metres of educational institutions and prohibition of advertisements by tobacco companies -- have raised the hackles of the tobacco industry. ``The Government should review these provisions, as they jeopardise the livelihood of a million people,'' says the president of the Indian Tobacco Association (ITA), Ch. Narendranath. According to an ITA estimate, there are three lakh pan shops in the State, 75,000 of them in the twin cities, one lakh tobacco farmers and five lakh farm labourers engaged in tobacco cultivation.
The provision, banning sale of cigarettes within a 100-metre radius of educational institutions, he points out, is nothing but a total ban on smoking. "Such is the density of educational institutions in urban areas that there will be virtually no room for pan shops.''
The association calls for removal of the 100-metre clause, allowing advertisements at the entrance of pan shops and creation of smoking and non-smoking sections in hotels. `The blanket ban will have an adverse impact on tourism.''
He said it was ironical that the land of tobacco, Andhra Pradesh, was lending a deathblow to the tobacco industry. "The slow down in cigarette sales -- there has been a drop of 10 per cent this year -- would get even more acute now,'' he cautioned.
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