Wednesday 24 April 2024

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Issues | Smoking

Come to Goa, but No Smoking, please!

 

Enjoy Goa, ah, but be careful ! No smoking, spitting or chewing tobacco in public places now. You may simply lose thousands just paying the fines.

Of course, the amount of fine - which ranges between Rs 1000 to Rs 10,000 and even imprisonment up to three months - depends upon whether the offence is the first one, second, third or a repeated one.

It's a good news for those who consider smoking or chewing tobacco in public places is a nuisance. K R Narayanan, the President of India, has finally given a go for the bill the state Assembly had passed over two years ago, in July 1997.

After officially assenting to it on 18 August, the bill is now back to the state government, awaiting a notification. The top bureaucrats appear to be in agreement with the National Organisation of Tobacco Eradication (NOTE) to bring it in force from 2 October - Gandhi Jayanti - when the tourist season just begins.

Pending assent from the governor after it was unanimously passed by the last Assembly, the government had referred the Goa Prohibition of Smoking and Spitting bill to the President, claiming that it clashes with the guidelines laid down in the central legislation regarding advertising.

Subsequently, the Tobacco Institute of India had also demanded a review of the Goan legislation, based on a Supreme Court verdict upholding principles of freedom of commercial expression, consumer's right to information and right to smoke.

Clearing all the hurdles, the total bill now appears to have been converted into an act, the first of its kind passed in the country. It is much more than the act existing in Delhi and the high court directive which is in force in Kerala.

In Delhi, only notices, circulars, wall papers, pamphlets, displays, hoarding or visible representation of any light, sound or gas etc are banned. But the Goa act bans 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 not displaying "no smoking zone" boards in public places would be a cognisable offence, stringent fines would also be levied for advertising or attempting to promote smoking or chewing tobacco, including gul, tobacco paste, pan masala, zarda or ghutka.

It also bans sale of cigarettes to minors or selling, distributing and storing it in the close vicinity of a school or place of worship. Its implementation is going to be a headache for the state administration as most of the prime market places in almost all Goan villages are located either near places of worship or educational institutions.

"Panchayat authorities should drive them away in the villages while all small shops around such places in the cities should be shifted", feels Dr Sharad Vaidya, chairman of NOTE. He however expects an intensive awareness campaign for some period before starting actual action.

Besides public transport, the places of public use consist auditoria, cinema/conference/ seminar halls, hospitals, health institutions, amusement centres, restaurants, eating houses, hotel lounges, other waiting lounges, public offices, court buildings, educational institutions, libraries, bus stands, ferry boats, places of worship, sports stadium and even beaches.

The act also authorises recognised NGOs to file complains before the court for violation of the provisions in the legislation. With total ban on all kind of sponsorships, Goa's famous carnival floats as well as dances and beat shows would be now adversely affected as they would lose their regular sponsors -the tobacco companies.

Besides ban on smoking or chewing tobacco, the act also bans spitting, which means voluntary ejection of saliva from the mouth after chewing or without chewing and ejection of mucus from the nose after inhaling snuff or without inhaling.

The act authorises any police officer not below the rank of a sub-inspector and even a driver/conductor of a public service vehicle to eject any person who contravenes any provisions of the act.

Besides publicly thanking the President of India, Dr Vaidya has also thanked I K Gujral, former prime minister, for following up the matter in New Delhi persistently, to make the historical legislation a reality.


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