Doctors, cancer patients, and restaurateurs in Assam have petitioned the Centre to amend the COTPA 2003 to allow designated smoking rooms to be removed from hotels, restaurants, and airports to protect people from secondhand smoke.
The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertising and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply, and Distribution) Act, 2003, adds to the COTPA’s scope.
On Wednesday, doctors, cancer patients, and restaurateurs made the appeal at an event in Guwahati to commemorate World No Smoking Day. They praised the government for starting the process to amend COTPA 2003, but demanded that a current clause that allows smoking areas be removed immediately in order to make India smoke-free and prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection.
“A increasing body of evidence suggests that smoking is a risk factor for COVID-19 infection. Smoking wreaks havoc on your lungs and weakens your immune system. Smokers who contract COVID-19 have more complications and a higher risk of death, according to Munindra Narayan Barua, managing director of the North East Cancer Hospital and Research Institute.
“To maintain a smoke-free atmosphere, all designated smoking areas in hotels, restaurants, and even airports should be eliminated. The majority of these designated smoking areas do not comply with COTPA regulations, placing the public’s health at risk from secondhand smoke,” he added.
Smoking is prohibited in all public places under Section 4 of the COTPA 2003. Smoking is permitted in designated smoking areas in some public places, such as restaurants, hotels, and airports, under the Act. Passive smoking is prevalent in hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs, and clubs, according to anti-tobacco advocates, endangering the lives of thousands of non-smokers.
“Because cigarette smoke seeps into common areas, COTPA should be amended to prohibit smoking on all premises. Second-hand smoking is just as dangerous as smoking, and designated smoking areas aid in the spread of COVID-19 infection because smokers are unable to socially distance themselves or wear masks, and are stuck in close proximity in a smoke-filled environment,” says a Guwahati-based anti-tobacco activist.
According to a recent survey in India, 72 percent of people believe secondhand smoke is a significant health threat, and 88 percent strongly support strengthening the existing tobacco control law to combat the issue.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and premature death worldwide, and tobacco-related diseases claim the lives of more than 12 lakh Indians each year. There are over 26 crore tobacco consumers in India, including all demographics and genders.