The public smoking ban should not go up in smoke
My first bad experience of exposure to second hand smoke was after I started working. We used to spend hours holed up in small conference rooms and even if two out of 8 people smoked, the air-conditioned room would be full of smoke. No one would say anything out of politeness. I think I must have gone through several years of this.
My second experience was when I was on a flight from Delhi to Mumbai with my two month old baby. We could not manage a seat in the non-smoking section (those days smoking was allowed on flights). As luck would have it I sat next to a chain smoker. He kept puffing and blowing smoke right into my baby’s face and after about half an hour of this, I requested him (I was traveling alone) to please not smoke. His answer? “You should have got a seat in the non-smoking section.” The man continued to smoke for the rest of the journey, even as my little one started coughing. I was very upset for several days after this experience.
It was always people like us (who objected to smokers) who were wrong. Smokers’ rights had to be protected, not ours. A friend will oblige if you request him/her not to smoke, but with strangers one cannot say. In any case one would even hesitate to ask.
- Penalty charges for smoking at in public places – Rs 200 (to be increased to Rs 1000)
- Higher penalties for hotels and industries
- Smoking prohibited in all indoor establishments
- Companies can no longer have designated smoking rooms
- Restaurants with a seating capacity or more to be allowed to keep enclosed spaces for smoking
So where should people smoke? In their own houses I guess or on the streets or in some designated closed space in a hotel. I don’t feel sorry for them. I don’t see why I should inhale passive smoke when it’s known to be bad for health. I have my rights.
Will it affect the business of restaurants and hotels?
Comprehensive studies abroad have shown that it doesn’t affect business as more non-smokers start going to hotels (although other, smaller studies contradict these findings), but this may not happen in India. Even though a small survey of 1,030 people showed that 92 percent of people in the four metros of Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata support such a ban, we do not know how the business of hoteliers will be affected.
However there is no doubt that some establishments will be affected more than others. For example shack owners in Goa are worried because they feel that the foreign tourists that frequent the shacks come to smoke and drink.This could be true, because when we were on holiday in these places it was not easy to find a smoke-free environment. In one instance in Puducherry, a man just a foot away at the next table was puffing vigourously, cigarette after cigarette, and guess what? He was turning his face away from his friends at the table and blowing the smoke in our direction!
Some people equate the ban to fascism and fanaticism
What I don’t understand is why people are reacting with so much anger to this ban. For example, an article in the DNA has called this ban the work of fanatics! The ban on smoking in public spaces has been compared to bans against sex workers, dance bars, Valentine’s Day celebrations, boys and girls sitting together in public parks! What an odd comparison. I am totally against banning the above but I am all for banning smoking in public places as it physically harms others. I am against moral policing but I am all for the rules that will protect my health. This ban has also been called “dictatorial” and “fascist” and “a holy war against supposedly decadent lifestyles” in the same article.
Another article (also in the DNA) by Pravin Nair says:
I just don’t believe it will work. Bans have never worked. Not on Simi. Not on the Bajrang Dal. Not on smoking..You only drive the problem underground and make it that much more difficult to deal with..
I am worried if SIMI goes underground, but not smoking. If smoking goes underground, it is not my business. I just don’t want to get affected by it. In any case, such comparisons are really odd. I mean, does it mean that SIMI and BD should not be banned?
There is also another article, again in the DNA, which says that the ban on smoking in Chandigarh hasn’t worked, and so this one won’t either, implying that that is a reason to not to have a ban at all. I do not agree with this logic, but Odzer (he lives in Chandigarh) tells me that the ban has been a modest success but he does say that it hasn’t really worked as it should.
Well, I am not sure whether it will work, but I sure want to be on the right side of the law when I request someone to refrain from smoking.
The rest of the world
Similar bans exist in other parts of the world and I doubt that these countries can be called fascist. All of these bans on smoking in public are from 2004 onwards. Good to know that India is not too not far behind in this at least! Here are the countries which do not allow smoking in public.
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- Denmark and Sweden (exemptions for small bars and restaurants with separate smoking rooms)
- Spain (bans smoking in workplaces, restrictions for public places, such as airports and train stations, but Pubs, restaurants and other public places smaller than 100 m² are exempted)
- The Netherlands and Romania (banned smoking in bars and clubs this year)
- South Africa (smoking restricted in all public areas)
- Bhutan – all sale and smoking of tobacco banned
- Some states in the United States of America (different for different states)
Is there any chance of this ban being overturned?
Anything is possible. The ban almost didn’t go through as tobacco giant ITC as well as the Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI, the apex body of all hotel associations) have filed cases against it. Well, at least for now the Supreme Court is not listening. It shouldn’t. Commercial interest should never come before an individual’s interest.
I hope that the various tobacco and hotel lobbies do not pressurize the government to take back the ban. Everyone of us has the right to breathe in a smoke-free environment and not get affected by the bad habits of others. And smokers and smoker’s lobbies and those whose business will be affected by the ban on smoking have no right to force us to inhale their poison! This isn’t about moral policing. It’s about the rights of non-smokers.
And if you look at it from the point of view of the Health Minister, well, it is a fact that one fifth of all Indians smoke and a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February this year said one in every 10 deaths in India from 2010 would be smoking-related. And the country loses Rs.36,000 crore (Rs.360 billion) due to health problems caused by tobacco related ailments (although this includes chewing tobacco).
Related Reading: Smoking rising in Asian countries
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The Lancet says that Pot can cause mental illness
How much can you drink and be on the right side of the law?