BANGALORE: Nearly three years after the new regulations under the Control of Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2004, were passed, there are still problems with their enforcement in the State. Both the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the State Government lack funds and are short of staff when it comes to making the ban on smoking in public places completely effective.
Under COTPA, 2004, new rules were passed on May 30, 2008 which prohibit smoking in hotels, restaurants, coffee houses, pubs, shopping malls, cinema halls, hospitals, amusement centres, railway stations etc. The Health Department of BBMP confirms that the corporation is short of staff and lacks funds when it comes to patrolling and conducting raids.
Dr Savita, Nodal Officer, Health Department, BBMP, said that when it comes to enforcement, the challenge lies in checking fast food joints,‘darshinis’, tiny shops and vendors on carts. “There is a need to bring in more people to ensure that there are sufficient checks that are conducted regularly. Regular checks and penalties are the only ways to enforce the ban,” she said.
But the responsibility of enforcement does not lie with the Corporation alone. The new regulations list the people that have a role to play in ensuring that the rules are followed. They include tax inspectors, health directors, central or state administrative heads and specially appointed nodal officers in public places. In other places like the railways, hospitals, post offices and educational institutions, the respective heads like station masters, post masters and headmasters have the authority to impose penalties on violators of the law.
But despite the creation of such a large team of enforcers, there are still loopholes when it comes to enforcement. For example, COTPA rules specify that there should be no sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of any school. The Palike has put up signboards near every school banning the sale of tobacco products but there are small shops and vendors that continue to sell cigarettes and other tobacco products very close to school premises. There are three schools in the same compound in Tasker Town: a BBMP school, a state government school and a Telugu medium school. There are vendors that sell loose cigarettes and tobacco products very close to the compounds of these schools.
Raju (name changed) is a vendor right outside the Telugu medium school. He said that he has paid the fine more than once for selling tobacco products near the school but continues to conduct business everyday. He adds that he has paid penalties amounting to `1500 and is aware of the COTPA rules as well. Under the COTPA act, a violator can be fined from `1 to `200. The Corporation, alone has collected `69,600 as fine, between March 2010 and March 2011, but the enforcement is not complete.
The Corporation also finds it difficult to patrol darshinis and other such fast-food joints in the city. They explain that vendors sell cigarettes over counters set up just outside the hotel. They use the set-back space between buildings and set up a counter there to sell cigarettes which is a violation of COTPA and building guidelines.
No money with the State Government
The State Government is also responsible for enforcing the new regulations. Its Tobacco Prevention Society has registered 1,487 cases in the last one year. Among them, 154 are pending and `14,2510 has been collected as fine, between December 30, 2010 and June 30, 2011.
But is the enforcement complete?
Sources in the Tobacco Prevention Society say that they need funding for 22 districts and currently have funds only for the Bangalore Urban District and Gulbarga. Unlike the Corporation, the State Government has the responsibility of enforcing the ban in the entire state.
They have established a district anti-tobacco cell and a district monitoring committee. But without sufficient funds, the anti-t obacco campaign remains does not go beyond the enforcement offices.