KOCHI: Enforcing a ban on public smoking in the city has been always an enormous challenge for the police who would regularly book several offenders for violating Section 4 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) that prohibits smoking in public places. But the pandemic-induced lockdown has resulted in a drastic fall in the number of COTPA violations in the city in 2020.
Only 72 COTPA violations were registered in the city during 2020 which is a steep fall from 7,746 cases registered in 2019, 14,893 cases in 2018 and 23,471 in 2017. This has also resulted in a decrease in fines. Officials say the fine collection under Section 4 of COTPA has taken a massive hit in 2020 compared to the Rs 38 lakh collected in 2017, Rs 25 lakh in 2018 and Rs 14 lakh in 2019. City assistant commissioner K Lalji said the decrease can be attributed to the lockdown and other restrictions as part of Covid-19 safety guidelines.
“A majority of people had to remain indoors in 2020,” he said.The city narcotic cell has decided to strictly enforce COTPA in the coming days as the government has eased Covid-19 restrictions.As per intelligence inputs, small shops are selling tobacco products to minors who have returned to school.
“Many petty shops have started to provide spaces for students to smoke cigarettes on their premises. We have deployed shadow police teams to keep track of such shops,” said an officer.
Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of advertisement and regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA) 2003 was enacted by the Government of India mainly to discourage the consumption of cigarettes and other tobacco products through imposing progressive restrictions and to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke.