GUWAHATI: In a recent letter written by Union Health Secretary, Preeti Sudan to the Chief Secretaries of all State & Union Territories, a proposal to make government offices tobacco free in order to protect public health in their specific states was accepted. Consumer VOICE and Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, Assam have applauded the decision by Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to declare Government Offices and buildings “Tobacco Free”.
The letter states that the Union Ministry is willing to provide technical support to states for implementing this policy. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, based at Nirman Bhawan, has already taken this initiative and issued a circular for banning use of any form of tobacco in the building. Smoking and spitting of tobacco in the premises of Nirman Bhawan is strictly prohibited and is a punishable offence. Taking forward this initiative to help people at large, the health secretary has stated this example of Nirman Bhawan and urged the states to follow the same.
Ashim Sanyal, COO, Consumer VOICE emphatically stated “It is an appreciable step taken by the health ministry. Tobacco use is the leading single preventable cause of deaths worldwide. India is the third largest tobacco producing nation and second largest consumer of tobacco world-wide. The second-hand smoke from cigarettes poses a risk to non-smokers, children and pregnant ladies as well. The decision will protect people from the menace of tobacco.
Advocate Ajoy Hazarika, Secretary Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum, Assam said “The decision will help to curb the proliferation of smoking as well as use of other tobacco products in the state”. According to the global adult tobacco survey 2016-17 (GATS-2) the numbers of tobacco related deaths per day in India are 3,700, which are almost 154 per hour. Tobacco use is highly detrimental to health. It is a major risk factor for Cancer, Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD), diabetes, chronic lung disease, stroke, infertility, blindness, Tuberculosis (TB) and oral cavity etc. The number of deaths every year in India, which is attributable to tobacco use, is 8-9 lakhs. Section (4) of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution) Act COTPA 2003 prohibits smoking in all public places. ‘Public Place’ is defined as any place to which the public has access whether as of right or not and includes all places visited by general public namely auditorium, hospital building, railway waiting room, amusement centres, public offices, educational institutions, libraries, coffee houses, canteens, banks, clubs and also open spaces surrounding hotels/restaurants etc.