Bengaluru: In a bid to expose rampant smoking in public places, thousands of cigarette and bidi butts were collected by NSS volunteers, citizens and civil society organisations across the city.
The collected butts were displayed at NIMHANS on the occasion of ‘World No Tobacco Day’ on Tuesday urging all the MPs from Karnataka and the Union Health Ministry to get the principal tobacco control law COTPA (Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act) amended and make public places 100 per cent smoke-free.
As part of the three-week long campaign, the Consortium for Tobacco Free Karnataka and its coalition partners collected the butts from public places like bus stops, educational institutions, parks, government offices, hospitals, tea shops and hotels in different parts of Bengaluru.
COTPA is the principal law that governs tobacco control in India that prohibits smoking in public places, direct and indirect tobacco advertising, sale of cigarettes or other tobacco products to persons below the age of 18 years and sale within 100 yards of any educational institution.
However, the above provisions, especially the ‘smoking in public places’ are violated blatantly. The fines prescribed for violations as per the existing COTPA are minuscule. A fine of Rs 200 isn’t enough to act as a deterrent to the smokers who smoke in public places.
“We find that COTPA, the principal tobacco control law, is not strong and comprehensive to cover all the issues related to tobacco control. Through this campaign we want to appeal to all the Members of Parliament from Karnataka, Union Health Ministry to amend COTPA and strengthen it to curb the gross violations.
“We need 100 per cent smoke-free public places,” said renowned Oncologist Dr Ramesh Bilimagga, who is also the President of the Consortium for Tobacco Free Karnataka.
He added that even the Designated Smoking Areas (DSA) at public places like hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs and airports have to be removed as they are posing threat to the health of non-smokers.
Bangalore Central MP P.C. Mohan said: “Tobacco consumption is injurious to health. We all jointly have the responsibility to keep our younger generation away from tobacco and reduce passive smoking”.
“In the larger interest of the society, we have to amend the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act and as a parliamentarian, I will work towards it,” he added.
Dr B.S. Ajai Kumar, Executive Chairman, HCG Cancer Hospital, said: “We incepted HCG to treat cancer patients. As oncologists, our ultimate goal is to ensure the health and well-being of society at large.
The best way to ensure the health of society is to prevent cancer, i.e., not have the disease at all. Almost 30 to 35 per cent of cancers can be prevented by simply eradicating tobacco. However, society as a whole needs to come together to get rid of the tobacco menace. One way of doing this is of course to urge people to stop using tobacco.
This is a critical need no doubt, but the more conclusive way is to attack the root cause and stop the production of tobacco by shifting them to alternate farming, which HCG is already working on at Hunsur, he said.
As part of the World No Tobacco Day event, a panel discussion titled “Eliminating the cigarette and bidi butts by amending COTPA” was held.
All the collected butts will be handed over to a waste management NGO for safe disposal. Children and youths submitted a memorandum to the MPs urging them to take steps to amend COTPA.