Saturday 17 November 2018

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Issues | Smoking

Smoking is a crime in Goa !

 

The last Gandhi Jayanti of the century would be worth remembering for Goans or all those lakhs of tourists, who will start flocking to the tiny coastal state from this month.

Enjoying the beaches, temples, churches or its greenery would be little different now, with effect from 2 October 1999.

Hold your breath, if you have a lighted cigarette in your hand. The smoke, if seen in public places, can cost you dearly or you may even land up in a police lock-up .

It's a good news, however, for those who consider smoking or chewing tobacco in public places is a nuisance.

K R Narayanan, the President of India, has finally given a go for the Goa Prohibition of Smoking and Spitting bill, without changing a single word. The state Assembly had passed it over two years ago, in July 1997.

Goa is perhaps the first state to legislate such a comprehensive act, much more than what Delhi has. Its implementation, obviously, is a tough task before the authorities, beginning from public awareness and tackling even its sale as it is a livelihood for the small kiosk owners all over the state, in the cities as well as the villages.

Smoking (and even spitting) is not banned completely. But it is strictly going to be a private affair henceforth, without disturbing the public. But it is just not a beedi or a cigarette, but any tobacco product for that matter, smoking or chewing it.

You may be allowed to smoke in public also, but only in those areas which are earmarked as 'smoking zones' by the state authorities. If not, you have to choose a 'private place' to satisfy your tobacco urge.

Besides public transport, the places of public use consist auditoria, cinema/conference/ seminar halls, hospitals, health institutions, amusement centres, restaurants, eating houses, hotel lounges, other waiting lounges, public offices, court buildings, educational institutions, libraries, bus stands, ferry boats, places of worship, sports stadium and even beaches.

It also bans sale of cigarettes to minors or selling, distributing and storing it in the close vicinity of a school or place of worship. Its implementation is going to be a headache for the state administration as most of the prime market places in almost all Goan villages are located either near places of worship or educational institutions.

"Panchayat authorities should drive them away in the villages while all small shops around such places in the cities should be shifted", feels Dr Sharad Vaidya, chairman of the National Organisation of Tobacco Eradication (NOTE).

In fact he is the man behind convincing all the political parties and MLAs in the last Assembly to get the legislation passed unanimously. Though known for his aggressive stance on smoking, even he expects an intensive awareness campaign for some period before starting actual action.

While not displaying "no smoking zone" boards in public places would be a cognisable offence as per this act, stringent fines would also be levied for advertising or attempting to promote smoking or chewing tobacco, including gul, tobacco paste, pan masala, zarda or gutkha.

In Delhi, only notices, circulars, wall papers, pamphlets, displays, hoarding or visible representation of any light, sound or gas etc are banned. But the Goa act bans advertising in the form of writing instruments, stickers, symbols, colours, logos, trade marks, displaying it on T shirts, shoes, sportswear, caps, carry bags, telephone booths etc.

Of course, the amount of fine - which ranges between Rs 1000 to Rs 10,000 and even imprisonment up to three months - depends upon whether the offence is the first one, second, third or a repeated one.

The act authorises any police officer not below the rank of a sub-inspector and even a driver/conductor of a public service vehicle to eject any person who contravenes any provisions of the act.

The act also authorises recognised NGOs to file complains before the court for violation of the provisions in the legislation. With total ban on all kind of sponsorships, Goa's famous carnival floats as well as dances and beat shows would be now adversely affected as they would lose their regular sponsors -the tobacco companies.

Besides ban on smoking or chewing tobacco, the act also bans spitting, which means voluntary ejection of saliva from the mouth after chewing or without chewing and ejection of mucus from the nose after inhaling snuff or without inhaling.

While the legislation would now finally come into force in stages, the state had to wait for over two years to get the assent from the Rashtrapati Bhavan, on 18 August this year.

Pending assent from the governor after it was unanimously passed by the last Assembly, the government had referred bill to the President, claiming that it clashes with the guidelines laid down in the central legislation regarding advertising.

Subsequently, the Tobacco Institute of India had also demanded a review of the Goan legislation, based on a Supreme Court verdict upholding principles of freedom of commercial expression, consumer's right to information and right to smoke.

Clearing all the hurdles, the total bill now appears to have been converted into an act, the first of its kind passed in the country. It is much more than the act existing in Delhi and the high court directive which is in force in Kerala.

In fact, chief minister Luizinho Faleiro takes pride to enact a unique legislation, which the whole country could now use as a model act.






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