NEW DELHI: The hype surrounding ban on smoking at public places seems to have vanished into thin air. A recent survey shows that the ban has not
been effectively implemented since it came into effect in October last year. The nationwide survey conducted by Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) with 11 partner organisations found that over 60% of the bars and restaurants flouted anti-smoking rules.
At least 211 public places were surveyed of which 127 flouted the law. “Our teams spent close to an hour at these bars and restaurants and measured the air quality using a small device. It highlights the fact that there are places where smoking in closed space is allowed. It is the non-smokers who are at a risk. There is an urgent need to take stringent action against clubs, bars, restaurants etc which flout the law,” said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, executive director, VHAI.
What’s worrisome is the fact that the level of fine particles at these places was 32 times higher than the permissible limit. “Fine particle PM 2.5 enters the lungs directly and can cause serious damage. Studies have shown that non-smokers are at equal risk of developing complications if they are exposed to passive smoking. Our teams were there only for an hour, but the PM 2.5 levels collected by our device was way too high than the permissible limit. According to WHO, a person should not inhale more than 25 microns of PM 2.5 in a span of 24 hours,” said Dr PC Bhatnagar, member of VHAI.
In Delhi, the PM 2.5 levels were alarmingly high and the survey found the levels 64 times higher than the normal. “In Delhi, of the 12 places visited, violation of the ban was found in only five places,” said Dr Bhatnagar.
Experts say that a large number of public places were found to be violating the smoke-free rules. “Though the rule allows some eateries to have a separate smoking area, there are many violations. The rules have a set of guidelines like the smoking zone should be a separate area and should have an automatic door to separate the smoking and non-smoking area but this is not seen in many places. The waiters still go inside the smoking area to serve food or alcohol,” said Priyanka Dahiya, legal officer, HRIDAY-Shan, an NGO.
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