HUBBALLI: With sustained efforts on enforcing tobacco control measures, Gadag district has retained its pole position in the country in the enforcement of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA).
The ranks are given by the Union Home Ministry depending on the control measures taken by the district administration.
Gadag, considered to be one of the backward districts of North Karnataka, had topped the country in 2013 for the strict implementation of COPTA. As a well-laid out mechanism was in place, the district continued its work to remain ahead of other districts in 2014 also.
Hemanthraj Urs, divisional coordinator of the state Anti Tobacco Cell, told Express, “The cell rigorously reviews the measures taken by the district anti-tobacco head and the deputy commissioner.”
Gadag district Superintendent of Police K T Balakrishan said the joint efforts of the police, Health Department and community service agencies helped control the tobacco menace. “Despite having a law to enforce tobacco control measures, the administration tried to tackle it from a social angle. Those caught violating norms are not only penalised, but also counselled to stop smoking and using tobacco products,” he said.
The district administration has involved schools, colleges, hotels, bars and restaurants and others to help implement COPTA norms, besides strict police vigilance. This has helped reduce smoking in public, said Balakrishan.
District health officer Dr R S Koppalkar said besides coordinating with various agencies, his department spread awareness on health issues. A range of programmes were conducted in schools, colleges and community centres in this regard. Petty shops were asked to stop selling cigarettes to school and college students, he said. In rural areas, the department staff are closely working with panchayat members and staff to educate the public about the ill-effects of tobacco consumption, he added.
Balakrishan said 8,177 cases have been filed for violation of various norms of the COTPA in 2014 and Rs 5.95 lakh has been collected as penalty. Despite these efforts, there has been a rise in the number of cases filed. In 2013, 7,688 cases were lodged in the district and Rs 5.56 lakh was collected as fine.