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 www.athletic-scholarships.net

6 comments:

Dabas said...

Asking before lighting up also depends on past experience, A wont ask B every time he lights up he has once asked B and received permission. Also, if A saw B not complaining while C was blowing the smoke in his face (without permission of course), A would safely assume B does not have an issue.
All friends of mine who smoke have always asked my wife if they can smoke even if we are sitting in a pub. Of course, they never asked her the next time we all met.

Also, implementation of the ban will mostly be limited to our offices (where people anyways lighted up in staircases or outside) and bars and pubs.
And if you talk about the majority minority argument, who is in the majority in a pub??

On an ending note: Its just another rule that will be broken by those who can. After all, in India the laws are simply too many but thats another discussion altogether :)

Personally, I welcome the move. As my office is only on the first floor and pubs cost a lot of money. Now I will party at home :)

KT said...

@Dabas:

Trust me, that's news to me that any smoker does that. Are you sure you distinctly rem such an experience where people asked your wife. Agreed that when you don't express objection, it is defaulted for future smoke-sessions. But what about people blowing smoke in public places, in unknown company. In my experience, YES has always been default answers most of (I am obliged to say "most of" since some of ur friends are exception to this rule) smokers have been assuming.

Even I don't see the law causing a lot of flutter in smokers' lives, but I believe that 5 yrs down the line you might notice the difference since most of Indian public want it and they, in groups, might pitch in their little to implement it.

Pubs and such social gatherings are welcome, but then what about people who wish to enjoy a drink sans hazzles of smoking, I for one do not wish to be choked in smoke in pubs.

Dabas said...

@KT

Some anger you have against the smokers dude! But you partly share the blame of them blowing smoke in your face.
And what was "Are you sure you distinctly rem ..." for? Dude! If I wasnt sure I wouldnt have mentioned it!
To shock you a little more, I myself have heard NO quite a few times when I have asked someone. So thats like a norm among the educated around me.
As for enjoying a drink sans the hassles of smoke, I believe it to be more based on personal choice rather than health concerns. And in a clash of choices, the majority would win. The majority which enjoys drinks with smokes and has to get off their ass and move out every time for a fag. Trust me, for them it just spoils the fun, it about smoking and drinking together, not alternately.
Five years down the lane, well, I see what you saying happening much before that, another polarization of the society, smoker and smoker-haters. The earlier smoker and non-smoker was just fine...


P.S. - I am not that heavy a smoker and I usually concentrate affectionately more on the drinks :)

ashes said...

Well, I too welcome the move but I am really not sure for how long will it work.

I did witness, on the 3rd of Oct, a friend being asked by a man on the street not to smoke. If this continues, we might end up having lesser cigarette smoke in public places.

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