Thursday, October 02, 2008

"Smoke Free" India or Smoke "Free India" ??

Ok, in order to put a funny caption, I admit the caption might be a little PJish but I think it will be an instance I will remember 2nd October for having changed the life of majority in a better way, if till now we remember it for Gandhi's b'day. I for one can not but admire Health Minister's courage to take on the tobacco lobby with govt's latest directive to ban smoking in what I can loosely term as public places.

I being a non-smoker very much welcome this change for various reasons. And for this post let's suspend our judgment of Mr. Ramadoss was in AIIMS controversy.

In past, often any move against smoking has been discouraged with the argument that govt. is hypocritical in the sense that they don't ban tobacco products because they can't survive without those revenues. Although it can't be directly established the effect of such ban on sale of toabcco products (I heard in news reports that world wide with such bans, the sales dipped by mere 2-3%), but accd to me it is a step in right direction.

For those who oppose this ban arguing freedom of choice, inconvenience in hotels, pubs etc, here is a question, How many times before lighting up a cigarette, have you asked bystanders, colleagues, relatives, "Do you mind if I light the cigarette here" or as a judgment call stepped aside to smoke somewhere else? I guess, passive smoking as a concept is now at least 2-3 years old in India, however despite that awareness I don't have any recollection of any smoker putting that question to me. Every Indian has been guaranteed freedom of speech and expression, but in this instance, no smoker exercised freedom of speech although everyone of them did exercise freedom of expression, to light a ciggie and blow circles in air without caring how many they are inconveniencing. So now when this small section is in spotlight, why cry fowl!!

The way I look at it is that till now, choice was always in the hands of smokers, whereas now it is being shifted into hands of non-smokers, who undoubtedly are in majority and would be benefitted greatly.

And this article will tell you that India is not first country to introduce ban on smoking in public place.

Yes, admittedly there are still grey areas and implementation issues here, but I have realised this change, after smoking was banned in public places, I have seen instances where group of people have asked fellow bus passengers to stub it out when in my childhood I remember people freely smoking and blowing it in people's faces. The backing of the law has actually given confidence to those voices.

I believe with time, implementation concerns will be sorted out. It will be interesting to see, how a postman or teacher is able to fine a smoker or exactly which places are open for smoking and which are not. But I am happy with the fact that most of the places frequented by general public has been covered. But lets not ambiguity be a reason to deny majority of the Indians right to live in a smoke free environment.

P.S. Image from