Khurda: Throwing the norms under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) to the wind, many people in Khurda district continue to smoke at public places, thanks to the laxity of the law enforcement officials.
Many do not even flinch when it comes to smoking in front of police stations here, let alone parks or bus stands or schools.
“Even though an inspector-in-charge is vested with the power to penalise such offenders, the cops here remain mute spectators to the illegal act,” a resident rued.
Six years have passed since COTPA was implemented in Khurda in 2012, but it is yet to be declared a ‘smoke-free’ district.
An enforcement squad comprising a public health department official, seven police officers, drug inspector, food safety officer and a member from a voluntary organisation, was formed to check consumption of tobacco products at public places.
The team was supposed to conduct raids at different places in the district for five days a month to nab those smoking at public places and penalise them. However, residents alleged that the squad hardly performs its duty.
According to the COTPA’s Section 4, smoking at public places such as schools, auditoriums, bus stands, government and private offices is banned and it invites a fine of Rs 200.
Besides, Section 6 (A) of the Act also bans selling of tobacco products to underage children.
When asked about the issue, Khurda chief district medical officer (CDMO), Bharat Bhusan Baral, claimed that the squad conducts raids twice a month. “The health department is also trying to spread awareness about the demerits of tobacco consumption.”
He further claimed that around Rs 8,000 was collected from 94 offenders as penalty in 2012-13.
Similarly, Rs 25,790 was collected from 252 individuals in 2015-16 and Rs 23,830 from 204 in 2016-17 for violating the law.
This year 32 persons have been caught smoking at public places and Rs 4,500 has been collected from them, Baral added.
Why public smoking is bad
Public smoking is hazardous for passive smokers as it may cause lung cancer if someone is exposed to it for a long period. Moreover, the cigarette butts littering the streets and other public places paint a bad picture of the civic awareness of the area. This may also dissuade the tourists from coming to the place concerned.