Page last updated at 08:24 GMT, Thursday, 2 October 2008 09:24 UK

Indian ban on smoking in public

By Geeta Pandey
BBC News, Delhi

Passive smoking in India
Passive smoking kills hundreds of thousands every year in India

A ban on smoking tobacco in public has come into force in India.

Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss says he aims to cut the number of smokers and to protect passive smokers from the harmful effects of tobacco.

The government says India has more than 120 million cigarette smokers. Observers say the ban will need to be strictly enforced.

Those flouting it face fines of 200 rupees ($4.50). Tobacco smoking in India kills 900,000 people a year.

That figure is expected to rise to a million by 2010.

India's health ministry says hundreds of thousands of people who have never smoked die each year by inhaling smoke from other people's cigarettes and bidis (small hand-rolled cigarettes common in India).

"From 2 October India is going to go smoke-free in all public places," Mr Ramadoss said.

"The aim is to discourage the smokers, to make them quit or reduce smoking. Also all non-smoking employees have a right to a 100% smoke-free atmosphere.

"The perils of passive smoking are equally bad."

'Teething problems'

Health experts say passive smoking contains more than 4,000 chemicals and exposure can cause lung cancer, heart disease, bronchitis and asthma.

Cigarettes on sale in India
Auditoriums, cinema halls
Hospitals, health institutions
Railway stations, bus shelters
Restaurants, hotels, bars, pubs
Offices, libraries, courts
Markets, shopping malls
Discotheques, coffee houses
Schools, colleges, fun parks

In the capital, Delhi, no-smoking notices have been posted at many office buildings, restaurants and hotels.

The government has provided an exhaustive list of what it deems to be public spaces as well as officials who have the authority to fine law-breakers.

People will still be able to smoke inside their homes, and in open areas.

The health minister says he has written to all state governments asking them to ensure the ban is observed.

Legislation to outlaw smoking in public in India was first passed in 2003.

A ban was supposed to have taken effect in 2004, but it has taken four more years to work out guidelines before it could be implemented.


Indians discuss public smoking ban

Many say the new regulations will need strict enforcement to be effective.

Thursday - the first day of the ban - is a public holiday in India with offices and most markets closed and it will be some time before the first violations will be reported.

Some say they believe the law will be used by the police and other authorities to harass people.

The health minister admits there will be "teething problems".


But he says the "smoke-free campaign is a movement launched with massive public support" and he is confident that it will succeed.

"I expect there will be problems, but it will be done. I appeal to the people to please do self-policing and abide by the act."

To raise public awareness about the ban, the health ministry is running a publicity campaign in newspapers and on television and radio and billboards.

A new website is also being launched on Thursday to provide information about the ban.

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