BENGALURU: Tightening the screws in an unprecedented manner on smoking, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has issued a circular threatening cancellation of trade licences of hotels, pubs, and eateries in the city which provide ashtrays, matchboxes or even chairs and tables in designated smoking zones on their premises.
And to ensure that they follow the rules effectively, BBMP has established a Tobacco Control Cell under the health wing. “If any establishment like pubs, hotels, bars & restaurants having a seating capacity of more than 30 and wish to create a designated smoking area as per law, it is mandatory for them to get NoC from the Tobacco Control Cell,” BBMP Commissioner N Manjunatha Prasad said on Wednesday.
The establishments are also not allowed to serve food or liquor, or even water and beverages, at the designated smoking zones on their premises. If these rules cannot be followed, the owners have to clear the smoking zone with immediate effect, failing which BBMP authorities can cancel their trade licence. He appealed to the public and owners to encourage more and more smoking-free zones to avoid fire accidents and encourage better health.
These stringent measures come in the wake of an awareness programme organised in the BBMP council meeting on Tuesday, which focussed on safeguarding the health interests of non-smokers from passive smoking or second-hand smoke. The council, in one voice and cutting across party lines, stressed upon the need to curb these illegal smoking areas/zones. Mayor R Sampath Raj promised stringent action on those bars & restaurants, pubs and clubs which are violating the law, following which the circular was issued.
Council members raised concerns over the increasing number of smoking areas in bars & restaurants, pubs and clubs in clear violation of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) and Karnataka Prohibition of Smoking Act.
Under Karnataka Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non Smokers Act 2001, darshinis, bars, restaurants, hotels, pubs, club and other public places should be declared as ‘non-smoking zone’. Manjunatha Prasad said, “Public places like pubs, bars, clubs and hotels violate Section 4 of COTPA and Karnataka Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Act which prohibit smoking in restaurants and do not allow smoking in any area that serves food/alcohol or any other items.”
He said most hotels, clubs, pubs and bars in Bengaluru have designated smoking areas which are in gross violation of existing laws. “Owners are requested to cooperate with us and remove these smoking areas. Violation of this will result in cancellation of trade licence,” he warned.
WHAT OWNERS SAY
Akshat Prasad, owner of Vapour Pub & Brewery, Indiranagar, says that while the rule on smoking was always restricted to a designated area, it is unclear whether the new rule applies to open-air pubs. “There is ambiguity which needs to be clarified by the BBMP,” he said.
Another pub owner at Indiranagar said, “This is going to severely affect business, especially since the authorities have asked for music licence and OC licence. We don’t need another licence.”
Rajesh Rajaram, owner of Ebony Restaurant on M G road, said pubs and bars should be given 3-6 months to follow the protocol and a designated place for smoking does not make sense. “In an open air pub, the smoke is going to travel in the wind,” he says.
Dheeraj Kumar, owner of Pablo’s Gastropub in Whitefield, said, “BBMP is being a pseudo government agency by not banning cigarettes. It should stop interfering in a person’s personal choice. Customers go to a pub on their own will and pubs with open smoking areas attract those kind of customers.”
Meanwhile, BBMP ruling party leader M Shivaraju said, “Second-hand smoke is a major cause of cardio-vascular diseases. Global Adult Tobacco Survey shows exposure to tobacco smoke by non-smokers is 23.9% at public places and 14% of this exposure happens at eateries, hotels, bars & restaurants, etc. This is because of a provision to allow smoking in the premises.
Hence, to prevent the major chunk of second-hand smoke exposure and for effective prevention of diseases it causes, it is a must for prevention of smoking in public places. It is necessary that designated smoking areas must be removed as most of the facilities providing this do not follow the norms as specified by the law and put non-smokers at risk.”