New Delhi: Union health ministry has directed all States to make government buildings and offices “Tobacco Free" in order to protect public health. Health secretary Preeti Sudan has written to all State Chief Secretaries and Secretaries of all government departments that the ministry is ready to extend any technical support if required for the initiative.

“Tobacco use is highly detrimental to health. It is a major risk factor for Cancer, Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD), diabetes, chronic lung disease, stroke, infertility, blindness, Tuberculosis (TB) and oral cavity etc. To protect non-users from involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke, smoking in public place which includes all public offices, workplaces, canteen etc, it has been banned under Section 4 of the Cigarettes and other Tobacco products (prohibition of Advertisement and Regulations of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA), 2003," Sudan said in the letter.

The ministry of health and family welfare housed in Nirman Bhawan has already taken this initiative and issued a circular for banning use of any form of tobacco in the building. Smoking end spitting of tobacco in the premise of Nirman Bhawan is prohibited and is a punishable offence.

“Thus, in the interest of public health and with a view to keep the building clean, contributing towards the “Swachch Bharat Swastha Bharat" campaign, the initiative was taken," Sudan said.

The government has said that the harmful effects of tobacco use are well established and accepted globally. The use of tobacco is a prominent risk factor for 6 to 8 leading causes of death and almost 40% of the Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) including cancers, heart diseases and lung disorders are attributable to tobacco use. The number of deaths every year in lndia which is attributable to tobacco use is 8-9 lakhs.

Government further said that spitting of tobacco leads to spread of swine flu, tuberculosis, and pneumonia and gastro-intestinal diseases. TB Bacilli can survive in spit tor an entire day which causes health problems to the public and nuisance to the public in general.

The Cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), enacted in 2003 and applicable to the entire country, was mainly to discourage the consumption of cigarettes and other tobacco products by imposing progressive restrictions and public to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke. The implementation of COTPA is best done when the system/mechanism is institutionalized.

Section (4) of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution) Act COTPA 2003 prohibits smoking in all public places. ‘Public Place’ is defined as any place to which the public has access whether as of right or not and includes all places visited by general public namely auditorium, hospital building, railway waiting room, amusement centers, public offices, court buildings, educational institutions, libraries, coffee houses, canteens, banks, clubs and also open spaces surrounding hotels/restaurants etc.

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