Laudable anti-smoking initiative

India has finally ban smoking at public places. Violation of the ban, imposed under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, will attract a fine of up to Rs. 200.
The fact that smoking in public places will attract a fine is significant. Often smokers act with impunity though now smoking will be prohibited at all places to which the public has access, including auditoriums, health institutions, government buildings, restaurants, courts, public conveyances, public transport, stadiums, railway stations, bus stops, workplaces, shopping malls, refreshment rooms, discotheques, pubs and airport lounges.
The Indian initiative comes soon after one of the richest men in the world and a former Mayor of New York city came together in a laudable initiative to help anti-smoking campaigns in the world, especially in the developing countries which are being aggressively courted by tobacco companies.
Tobacco consumption is on the rise in India and China and they are both in the focus of this initiative. Incidentally, following aggressive anti-tobacco campaigns, as well as increasing awareness about the ill-effects of smoking on the health of the society and individuals that comprise it, tobacco consumption is on the decline in the USA and in some other high-income countries.
WHO has rightly pointed out that tobacco use is one of the biggest public health threats that the world has ever faced. There are more than one billion smokers in the world and globally, the use of tobacco products is increasing. Even those who do not consume tobacco suffer, since almost half of the world’s children breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke. The epidemic is shifting to the developing world and more than 80 per cent of the world’s smokers live in low and middle income countries.
Bill and Malinda Foundation have donated US $125 million and Bloomberg $250 million for various anti-smoking campaigns that help to keep tobacco consumption in control. For too long, anti-tobacco projects have been on a back burner and the sense of urgency is missing, perhaps because there is a lag of several years between when people start using tobacco and when their health suffers. Bill Gates joining Michael Bloomberg’s initiative gives rise to new hope of tackling this menace whose toll exceeds the combined toll of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
In India, Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss and the Supreme Court have to be given credit for resisting pressure to delay the ban which is a major step towards providing a smoke-free atmosphere and protecting non-smokers from passive smoking.
It is sad that Maharashtra and Bihar have expressed their inability to impose the ban, but surely, that too will change with time.