M A I N   N E W S

Finally, smoke-free India

New Delhi, October 1
Hotels, restaurants, airports, railway stations, offices, shops and factories today prepared to enforce a smoking ban in public across India in a major effort to curb tobacco use that authorities say kill an estimated 900,000 people in the country every year.

Senior executives and supervisory officials in scores of establishments said they were all set to implement the tough rules whose breach can lead to hefty fines.

The police and food and drug authorities will levy fines whenever there is a violation. Besides, on their respective premises, government officers, inspectors of central excise, sales tax, transport and health departments, and principals of schools can fine violators.

The new Smoking in Public Places Rules 2008 that was notified this month would come into force tomorrow, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

The new law states that all hotels with less than 30 rooms and restaurants with a seating capacity below 30 will be barred from allowing their guests to smoke. "Bigger ones may come up with a smoking lounge but it will be mandatory that smoke from inside the lounge must not affect people outside it," said a health ministry official.

The Supreme Court on Monday had upheld the government ban on smoking in public places from October 2. The order came after hearing counsel for various tobacco producers, including the ITC, and the federation of hoteliers.

The court dismissed fears that the ban, empowering various government officials to impose fines against offenders, would usher in the "inspector raj".

The new rule has expanded the definition of public places from government buildings to include all office buildings, hospitals, schools, colleges, railway stations, airports, bus stands, hotels and restaurants. If caught, smokers will have to cough up Rs 200 and owners of the premises are equally liable.



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