"State not serious about tobacco ban"

pti, panaji | 21 February 2010 11:22 IST

Much trumpeted legislation aiming at stamping out tobacco chewing and smoking from this tourist state is apparently not getting expected response with implementing agencies groping in darkness over the law.

"We raised the issue with the police of implementation of the rule in which we asked them to crackdown on smoking in public on the spot. But the police seems to be unaware about the rights under this law," Dr Gladstone D'Costa, president, Voluntary Health Association of Goa (VHAG), a non-government organisation, said.

He said the anti-tobacco campaigners have been pressing for issuing of challans on the spot like in case of traffic violations.

"In Chandigarh, police issue fines for tobacco law offenders on the spot," the VHAG president pointed out.

Goa was one of the first state in the country to have its own state legislation to ban tobacco usage in public, since 2 October 1999. Later the central legislation superceded state legislaltion since 2 October last year.

However, the state legislation is still reluctant to fine the offenders. It is waiting for the awareness to percolate down to the masses.

"Lack of awareness amongst the public and enforcing agencies is a major barrier in enforcing the ban in the state," Dr D'Costa said at a workshop on Tobacco Control and Consumer Action.

Goa Civic and Consumer Action Network (GOACAN), in collaboration with VHAG, had organized the workshop on Sunday. It was attended by representatives of different educational institutions.

Quoting a survey conducted by VHAG in capital city of Panaji, Dr D'Costa said 76 per cent of the people selected in random sample were aware that smoking was prohibited in public areas but they were unclear about the rules.

"Nearly 69 per cent places had sign boards, but only 28 per cent had appropriate signages. Moreover, 63 per cent offices did not display signages," the study revealed.

Dr D'Costa said that bus stands owned by the state-run Kadamba Transport Corporation Limited (KTCL) did not have signages advising people against smoking or tobacco chewing.

The health campaigners concede that sizeable presence of migrant workers add up to the tally of people suffering from tobacco-related illnesses.

"Nearly 50 per cent of migrant population develops cancer due to tobacco consumption. They chew tobacco to kill the hunger," he said.

The VHAG study has mentioned that the tobacco chewing habit is prominent in both the genders in case of migrants.

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