District election officials have been instructed to display boards of ‘No smoking zone’ at every polling station. An order to the effect was issued on April 7 by Neelesh Gatne, Joint Chief Electoral Officer, following a consistent campaign by the Voice of Tobacco Victims.
Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, founder of the campaign led by Voice of Tobacco Victims, and head and neck surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, told Newsline that Section 4 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution), Act, 2003, prohibits smoking at public places.
While Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Assam, New Delhi, MP and Goa have agreed to declare that all election booths will be tobacco-free zones, the state electoral officer was also urged to install signboards both inside as well as outside the election booth. “We have sent a picture of the signage that will include a circle of 15 cm outer diameter with a red perimeter of 3 cm width with a picture, in the centre, of a cigarette or beedi with black smoke and crossed by a red band,” Chaturvedi said.
However, Pune district officials said they were yet to receive a copy of the order.
Ahead of the campaign, several doctors, including Dr R Badwe, Director, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai; Dr P C Gupta, Director, Healis – Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health; Dr Upendra Bhojani, Institute of Public Health, Bangalore; Dr Vishal Rao, Apollo Hospital, Bangalore; Padmini Somani, Salaam Bombay Foundation; and Chaturvedi had urged V S Sampath, Chief Election Commissioner, to include the prohibition of political parties from receiving donations and other favors from tobacco industry as part of the Model Code of Conduct.
As per the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (2009-2010) conducted on behalf of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 48 per cent of men and over 20 per cent women consume tobacco products in India. The high rate of consumption of tobacco leads to more than 10 lakh deaths every year in the country.
“Several studies conducted in India and abroad suggest that the powerful tobacco industry that includes transnational corporations, use various tactics, including financial donations and other favors, to influence political parties and elected representatives in order to derail public health policies,” Chaturvedi said.
Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention of Tobacco Control, a legally binding United Nations Treaty to which India is signatory, prohibits such favors by tobacco industry and mandates the member countries to put in place a code of conduct that prescribes public officials’ dealings with tobacco industry, he added.