Tobacco smoke-free environment is a right

Tobacco smoke-free environment is a right

World Environment Day, June 5

Second-hand tobacco smoke is dangerous to health. It causes cancer, heart disease and many other serious diseases in adults. Almost half of the world's children breathe air polluted by tobacco smoke, which worsens their asthma conditions and causes dangerous diseases. At least 2 lakhs workers die every year due to exposure to second-hand smoke at work.

Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the world. It causes 1 in 10 deaths among adults worldwide.

Ensuring a tobacco smoke-free environment is the only way to protect ourselves from the lethal ill effects of tobacco smoke.

According to WHO, there are some 4000 known chemicals in tobacco smoke; more than 50 of them are known to cause cancer in humans. Tobacco smoke in enclosed spaces is breathed in by everyone, exposing smokers and non-smokers alike to its harmful effects.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), 2 lakh workers die every year due to exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke at work.

There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. Neither ventilation nor filtration, even in combination, can reduce tobacco smoke exposure indoors to levels that are considered acceptable. Only 100% smoke-free environments provide effective protection.

Article 8 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, recognizes that exposure to tobacco smoke causes death, disease and disability, and asks countries to adopt and implement legislation that provides protection from second-hand smoke.

Many countries around the world have already introduced laws to protect people from exposure to tobacco smoke in public places. India is one of them.

"An Act on no-smoking in public places has been brought out by the Centre two-and-a-half years ago, but it remained only on paper. Now, we have made a modification in the already enforced rule and from 2 October 2008, the modified rule will be enforced strongly across the country," said Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister.

The Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act-2003, of the Government of India has notified revised Rules on the Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places on 30 May 2008.

"As per the revised Rules, smoking is banned in shopping malls, cinema halls, public/private work place, hotels, banquet halls, discotheques, canteen, coffee house, pubs, bars, airport lounge, railway stations", said Dr Ramadoss.

Contrary to common belief, smoke-free environments are widely supported by both smokers and non-smokers.

Having a smoke-free environment often saves money for bars and restaurant owners, reducing their risks of fire and consequently their insurance costs. It often results in lower renovation, cleaning and maintenance costs too.