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Friday, October 03, 2008

Day 1: Smokers warned, not fined

CHENNAI: The man behind the country-wide smoking ban, union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss, was himself present in the city on Thursday , and the
first day of the ban began with massive awareness campaigns. No one in the city was fined. However, many people, including police constables, bus drivers and several others, were warned by the squads sent out by the health department and other sections. Union minister Ramadoss, who began distributing pamphlets at the City Mofussil Bus Terminal (CMBT) in Koyambedu , told several bus drivers , conductors and passersby that people would have to stub it out in public from Thursday. "Many women and youngsters have welcomed this. They congratulated me for launching the battle against the tobacco lobby," he told reporters as he was distributing the awareness kits. He also once again read out the list of 'public places' as defined by the Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Rules, 2008 to the people gathered around. He answered a volley of questions from several members of the public. Smoking, he said, had been banned in all government or private buildings and public places like libraries, cafes, restaurants, schools, pubs or discos, stadiums, airports, hospitals, bus stands, railway stations, police stations, courts, auditoriums or cinemas . Smokers can light up by the roadside or in their homes, he said. They can also indulge in the habit in open public spaces such as parks or the beach. "I am passionate about implementing this act. I hope the people will volunteer to help us implement this Act and give non-smokers their right to a nicotine-free environment ," he said. Though the designated officers , including those from the police and health departm e n t s, and other officials went around the city, they restricted themselves to just warning people against smoking in public places. "We did not fine them today. We will start fining from Monday. Our purpose is to create awareness now. But in general the public response was good," said the city's chief health officer, B Kuganandam. Commissioner of police R Sekar said most smokers were asked to either stub out the cigarettes or go to the roadsides. In the districts, however, the authorities have begun imposing the fine. More than 150 people were asked to cough up Rs 200 for violating the ban in hospitals, bus stops and cinemas at several places. While at least 85 persons were caught in the act in Villupuram, the other districts together reported more than 500 cases. "Some of them were constables smoking in police stations and others included hospital staff or attenders of patients, " said state anti-tobacco cell co-ordinator Selvavinayagam . Health secretary V K Subburaj said the state government had decided to implement the ban in toto. "We have not started fining people today. But we would not spare them if they violate the rules," he said.

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