Monday 04 March 2024

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Goa finally bans smoking from 26 January

 

At last, the Republic Day dawns on Goa with restrictions on smoking or consuming tobacco as well as spitting in public places. The government has finally fully notified the Goa Prohibition of Smoking and Spitting Act 1997.

Instead of going back to the Assembly as announced earlier, chief minister Francisco Sardinha has chosen to delete some of the public places from the definition and put restriction in few other areas while notifying rest of the public places specified in the act as no-smoking areas.

The act, which was partially notified on 2 October last year on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, would now come into force fully from 26 January. After the state Assembly passed it unanimously in July 1997, the President of India had assented to it only in October last year, without bowing before the tobacco lobby.

"The violator would now face prosecution", says Ashok Nath, the chief secretary. But the tourists as well as Goans need not worry about smoking on the beaches, sports stadiums, bus stands, ferry boats and amusement parks. Sardinha has just refused to notify them as No Smoking zones.

Smoking is also not allowed at the air ports, restaurants, eating houses and hotel lounges, except in the designated areas, to be specified by the concerned proprietors. Even in public offices, smoking is allowed in places where general public has no free access while at the railway stations, it is prohibited only at the waiting rooms.

It appears that top 'smoking bureaucrats' like Nath, who is a chain smoker, have played a major blunder by prohibiting it only in places like lobbies or corridors and not in their offices. It would obviously mean that their junior staff would continue to get affected with the smoke in the air-conditioned cabins, though the basic purpose of the act it to protect the passive smoker.

Smoking, consuming tobacco or spitting is otherwise banned in all the auditoriums, cinema halls, conference halls, hospitals, health institutions, courts, educational institutions, libraries, places of worship and buses. Punishment includes three months imprisonment as well as a fine up to Rs 10,000.

The act, a unique one in the country, also bans advertisement of tobacco products. It includes notices, circulars, wall papers, pamphlets, displays, hoarding or visible representation of any light, sound or gas etc as well as advertising in the form of writing instruments, stickers, symbols, colours, logos, trade marks, displaying it on T shirts, shoes, sportswear, caps, carry bags, telephone booths etc.

While the Indian cricket team may not be allowed to play in Goa anymore due to this, local newspapers have been openly advertising tobacco products since October. "We had warned them earlier. Now we will launch prosecution", says the chief secretary.

The act also bans sale of any tobacco product, including cigarettes or beedies or even products like gul, tobacco paste, pan masala, zarda or gutkha. to minors or selling, distributing and storing it in the close vicinity of a school or place of worship.

The government however is still thinking of enforcing the act in stages. It would begin with police moving into action, followed by the special designated officers and specified NGOs, says Nath. But the local police are still awaiting a circular. "The picture is still hazy", says a senior police officer.


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