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Making business:A man selling Pan Masala and gutkha notwithstanding their ill-effects.
HYDERABAD: The Tobacco Control Act (TCA), brought into force on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in 2008, has been a non-starter in the Capital. There are many challenges in implementing the Act which are making it difficult to achieve a smoke-free Hyderabad. Other vital components of the Act like prohibiting sale of tobacco products near schools and not selling them to minors (below 18 years of age) too have failed to take-off.
After two years, government officials are yet to come out with a ‘fool-proof' strategy to implement the TCA. Last time all top authorities from various departments met and ‘brainstormed' on this issue was in November.
Public not aware
“When we ask the person smoking at a bus stand to pay Rs. 200 fine, he simply says he is not at all aware of the Act. This is where the problem starts.
Public is not aware because there is no concerted effort from all departments,” says a ground-level worker, who is part of the enforcement team in Hyderabad.
From 2009, authorities have levied fines on 7,049 violators all over the State and collected close to Rs. 9 lakh towards penalties. “Awareness is the key to propagate ban on smoking at public places. A concerted effort is needed and it takes time to get desired results at the ground level,” says Additional Director (Non-Communicable Disease), T. Geeta Prasadini.
Lack of coordination
Health officials maintain that they need the help of police to impose penalties. “Police are already burdened and they have to prioritise. Implementing a ban on smoking is last on their priority list. We can't blame them. There is definitely lack of coordination,” health officials argue.
While this being the case, tobacco chewing products like ghutka (Pan Paraag) and khaini are readily available near schools.
The Act prohibits sale of such products within 100 yards of educational institutions.
“Ultimately it depends on various departments and their commitment to the issue. Tobacco addiction kills close to 10 lakh people in India every year whereas persons dying due to HIV/AIDS, TB and road accidents are 11 lakh. So, tobacco is a major killing agent and everybody has to realise it,” says State Nodal Officer, Tobacco Control Programme, M. Jayaram.
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