Smokers out to reclaim smoke free Shimla

Shimla: A year after being declared a smoke free city, laxity in implementation of anti-tobacco laws in public places is beginning to encroach upon no-smoke zones in Shimla that could allow smokers to reclaim the hill city, say activists.

“Last year when the city was declared smoke free on 2nd October,” says Narender Sharma, executive director with an NGO, HP Voluntary Health Organization (HPVHA), “a survey had established that 90 % of public places, which included offices and eating places, were smoke free.”

“However, in a repeat survey this year it was found that 78 percent of the public places are smoke free,” he said.

Started with a signature campaign in 2007 to get the smoke free provisions of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, (COPTA) 2003 implemented and make work places and public places free of smoke, the target was achieved in 2010.

“Other than the police,” says SN Joshi, consultant HPVHA, “other designated agencies under CPOTA for enforcing smoke free laws have been found to shirking in warning or fining violations.”

More needs to be done, if we are to retain the hard earned smoke free city status, said Joshi. Enforcement squads have to be formed on immediate basis and district monitoring committee on tobacco control may have to meet every month, he added.

Moving beyond the city and for making the state a smoke free one, a baseline compliance of smoke free public places survey showed that active smoking was taking place in 30% of the public places in the district and block headquarters surveyed.

Smokers in public spaces was highest in Kullu district at 52%, followed by Hamirpur district at 48%, and Solan district with 35 % was in third place, the baseline survey revealed.

Availability of cigarette and bidi butts at district and block headquarters were at an astonishingly high of 73% in Kullu district, follow by Solan district at 60% and Shimla district with 57% was at third place.

The survey also stumbled upon that two panchayats in landlocked valley of Dodra Kawar, and a few villages of Chamba, Kullu and Mandi that did not allow tobacco consumption of any type due to religious reasons.

The survey also found that charas smoking in cigarettes was increasing among the states youth and foreigners, not aware of smoke free Himachal, were found to be smoking unmindful in almost all districts.

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