On the occasion of ‘No Smoking Day’, doctors, cancer victims and hotel associations urged the government to remove designated smoking rooms in hotels, restaurants and airports to protect people from secondhand smoke.
While appreciating the government for initiating the process to amend the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003, they appealed for immediate removal of the current provision that permits smoking areas to make the country 100 per cent smoke-free.
"Smoking worsens lung function and reduces immunity. All designated smoking areas in hotels and restaurants and even airports should be abolished to ensure a 100 per cent smoke-free environment. Most of these designated smoking areas are rarely compliant as per COTPA requirements and are actually putting our public at great health risk from exposure to secondhand smoke," said Dr Harit Chaturvedi, chairman, Max Institute of Cancer Care.
In India, smoking is banned in all public places under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003. Section 4 of this Act prohibits smoking in any place to which the public has access.
However, COTPA 2003, presently allows smoking in certain public places like restaurants, hotels, and airports in designated smoking areas. “Exposure to passive smoking happens in eateries, specifically 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 smoking areas to common areas, the COTPA Act needs to be amended to not permit smoking in any premises. All places should be completely smoke-free in the best interest of the public health,” said Nalini Satyanarayan, a passive smoking victim and health activist.
Secondhand smoking is as harmful as smoking. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes many diseases, including lung cancer and heart disease in adults, and the impairment of the lung function and respiratory infections in children. People with compromised respiratory and cardiovascular systems are at higher risk for severe severity and death.
Designated smoking areas facilitate the spread of infection as smokers cannot socially distance or wear masks and are trapped in close proximity in a smoke-filled environment.
“We are finding that families prefer to stay in hotels which do not allow smoking. We are happy that the government is strengthening the COTPA provisions to make hospitality sector completely smoke-free. We support the government in its initiative for safeguarding people's health,” said Dr G P Sharma, president, Hospitality Association of Uttar Pradesh.
The Government of India has started the COTPA amendment process and introduced the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
A recent survey conducted in India revealed that 72 per cent believe secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard and 88 per cent people strongly support strengthening of the current tobacco control law to address this menace.
India has the second largest number of tobacco users (268 million or 28.6 per cent of all adults in India) in the world - of these at least 1.2 million die every year from tobacco related diseases.
One million deaths are due to smoking with over 2,00,000 due to secondhand smoke exposure, and over 35,000 are due to smokeless tobacco use. Nearly 27 per cent of all cancers in India are due to tobacco usage. The total direct and indirect cost of diseases attributable to tobacco use was a staggering Rs 1.82 crore which is nearly 1.8 per cent of India's GDP.