NEW DELHI: On No Smoking Day, doctors, cancer victims and hotel associations urged the Centre to remove the designated smoking rooms from hotels, restaurants and airports to protect people from second-hand smoke.
The second Wednesday of March is observed as No Smoking Day.
Lauding the Centre for initiating the process to amend the COTPA 2003, the doctors, cancer victims and hotel associations appealed for an immediate removal of a current provision that permits smoking areas to make India 100 per cent smoke-free and check the spread of COVID-19.
Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head-and-neck cancer surgeon, Tata Memorial Hospital, said there is growing evidence that smoking increases the risk of attracting Covid.
It worsens lung function and reduces immunity.
Smokers who contract Covid develop more complications and have a greater risk of fatality.
"All designated smoking areas in hotels and restaurants and even at airports should be abolished to ensure a 100 per cent smoke-free environment. Most of these smoking areas are rarely compliant of the COTPA requirements and are actually putting our public at great health risk from exposure to second-hand smoke," Chaturvedi said.
In India, smoking is banned in public places according to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA), 2003.
Section 4 of the Act prohibits smoking in any place to which the public has access.
However, the Act allows smoking at designated areas in certain public places such as restaurants, hotels and airports.
"Exposure to passive smoking happens in eateries, hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs, risking the lives of thousands of non-smokers by exposing them to the smoke of cigarettes. As cigarette smoke seeps from the smoking areas to the common areas, the COTPA needs to be amended to not permit smoking on any premises.
"All places should be completely smoke-free in the best interest of public health," said Nalini Satyanarayan, a victim of passive smoking and a health activist.
Second-hand smoking is as harmful as smoking.
Exposure to second-hand smoke causes many diseases, including lung cancer and heart diseases in adults and lung function impairment and respiratory infections in children.
People with compromised respiratory and cardiovascular systems are at a higher risk of COVID-19 severity and death.
Designated smoking areas facilitate the spread of Covid as the smokers find it difficult to follow social distancing and cannot wear masks and are trapped in close proximity in a smoke-filled environment, Chaturvedi said.
"We are finding that families prefer to stay in hotels that do not allow smoking. We are happy that the government is strengthening the COTPA provisions to make the hospitality sector completely smoke-free. We support the government in its initiative for safeguarding people's health," said GP Sharma, president, Hospitality Association of Uttar Pradesh.
The Centre has introduced the COTPA (Amendment) Bill, 2020 in Parliament.
In a recent survey conducted in India, 72 per cent of the respondents said they believe that second-hand smoke is a serious health hazard and 88 per cent strongly supported the strengthening of the current tobacco-control law to address the menace.
India has the second largest number of tobacco users (26.8 crore or 28.6 per cent of all adults in the country) in the world.
Of them, at least 12 lakh die every year from tobacco-related diseases.
As many as 10 lakh deaths are reported due to smoking, more than two lakh due to second-hand smoke exposure and over 35,000 due to smokeless tobacco use.
Nearly 27 per cent of all cancer cases in India are due to tobacco usage.
The total direct and indirect cost of the diseases attributable to tobacco use is a staggering Rs 1.82 lakh crore, which is nearly 1.8 per cent of the country's GDP.
Tobacco use in all forms, whether smoking or chewing, is associated with severe COVID-19 casualties, according to advisories issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).