It has been almost five years since smoking in public was made an unlawful activity. Yet, the ban, like many others, exists only on paper.
While authorities in the rest of the state take it easy, Guntur district has emerged as a model in curbing public smoking.
“We started a programme called “Chellellakosam” (for the sake of sisters). Under it, we took up various issues, including public smoking and drinking, which cause inconvenience to the public, especially women,” said Ake Ravi Krishna, superintendent of police, Guntur district.
Participation of all police personnel, right from the constable, was sought to enforce the law, he said. “We also took the help of the public. If my men see people, especially youngsters, smoking in public places like bus stops, they round them up and make them pledge that they would henceforth abstain from breaking the law,” Krishna said.
All the constables are out on the roads everyday to make sure that the rule is enforced strictly. “We have also removed pan shops near schools and colleges, so that students would not get drawn to the habit. In buses, conductors make sure that commuters don’t smoke. Seeing our success, other districts are trying to emulate our programme,” Krishan said.
More than Rs 21 lakh has been collected as fine from more than 36,000 offenders since 2012. In 2012 alone, 16,511 cases were registered against public smokers and Rs 11.15 lakh was collected as penalty. Till May 23 this year, 20,324 offenders were booked and Rs 10.27 lakh collected as fine, he said.
Meanwhile, Heena Sheikh, state consultant, national tobacco control programme, said, “In Hyderabad, we are not able to conduct programmes to educate the public. Though it is the health department which is responsible to enforce the ban, it is also the responsibility of the police.”
“Senior police officials are disinterested cooperating with us, saying theyhave other law and order issues to deal with. But Guntur has done exceedingly well, and other are following suit,” she said.