New Delhi, Aug 31 (IANS) Smokers beware! The government is empowering school principals, postmen, railway stationmasters, even your boss to book you if you're caught smoking in a public place after Oct 2 - the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
The health ministry has already sent the rule for gazette notification and will make it public in the second week of September.
'The government is yet to approve a fine of Rs.2,000 for those caught smoking in public,' said a senior health ministry official. 'So we are implementing the new Smoking in Public Places Rules 2008 with the old fine amount - up to Rs.200.'
The new rule will also expand the definition of public places from government buildings to include all office buildings, hospitals, schools, colleges, railway stations, airports, bus stands, hotels and restaurants.
'With the public notification, we will empower principals of schools, colleges, station masters, postman, airport authorities to challan (book) those smoking in public places. Once caught, the smoker will have to pay Rs.200 or whatever he has if he is carrying less than that amount,' the official told IANS.
'These people have better access to public places and their involvement will work as community participation to reduce smoking in the country.
'The public notification will empower top officials in private firms to challan their employees. The challan money will go to the revenue department of the state government concerned,' the official added.
The modalities will be finalised before the public notification.
To start the process, the official said, in the last one week they fined eight employees of the Nirman Bhawan, the building that houses the health ministry, urban development ministry, and some other government offices.
Hundreds of thousands of people lose their lives due to smoking related diseases in India every year. They are at risk from all cardio-vascular diseases like heart attack and stroke and cancer. Government estimates say that though the tobacco industry brings revenue of Rs.270 billion to the country every year, the treatment cost of the disease burden is at least Rs.300 billion.
The health ministry official said the public prohibition would come into force from Oct 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss has been campaigning for years to stop smoking in public places and making India a smoke free country.
The ministry said that with the new rules coming into force, all hotels with at least 30 rooms and restaurants with a sitting capacity of 30 will be barred from allowing their guests to smoke. 'They may come up with a smoking lounge but it will be mandatory that smoke from inside the lounge must not affect people outside it.'
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