HYDERABAD: The ban on smoking in public spaces has become a sham in Hyderabad, with no official machinery to enforce the rule. Though it has been more than seven years since government has banned smoking in public, even today we can come across several such instances. While anti-smoking messages fall on deaf ears, official apathy towards the problem is adding to the woes.
“We had a separate wing to monitor ban on public smoking in the combined state. But after bifurcation, that team was designated to Andhra Pradesh and till now no such team has been formed in Telangana. We are in the process of constituting a separate wing. Meanwhile we have also spoken to Telangana State Police to help us once a week to enforce ban in public places. We will soon enter into an agreement,” said Dr Y Lalitha Kumari, director, Public Health and Family Welfare.
The ban on smoking in public places has to be monitored by health and family welfare department, in coordination with urban bodies like Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC). If needed, the district medical and health department can also seek assistance from police to raise awareness and enforce ban on public smoking.
“Both active and passive smoking are equally dangerous to health. But in spite of ban on smoking in public, many do so, putting not just their health in danger but also others. Patients approaching us with health issues like lungs problems, cancers, among others due to smoking are steadily increasing. Just by making laws there will not be a better situation. It has to be enforced,” felt Dr Sai Praveen Haranath, senior consultant pulmonologist and intensivist, Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad.
But negligence of health and family welfare department regarding enforcment of ban is weakening an important legislation, meant for protecting the public from ill effects of smoking. Though `200 fine has to be levied on persons smoking in public, as there are no proper staff to enforce it, it is being largely ignored by both enforcing officials and smokers.
According to directions of National Tobacco Control Programme, though ‘No Smoking’ boards have to be displayed at all public places like hotels, bus stands, schools, government offices, among others, this rule too is being ignored due to lack of enforcement.
“Recently, National Tobacco Control Programme (NTPC) discussed various aspects of tobacco control and stressed the need to control its consumption The state nodal officer has also shown his concern towards lack of enforcement in Telangana and the need to strengthen it,” added Dr Y Lalitha Kumari.