Officials ‘figure out’ legal framework,hookah bars thrive

smoke ban Cops say they will act if the bars are ‘illegal’; civic body puts onus on Food & Drug Administration

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Published: April 5, 2012 3:08 am

smoke ban Cops say they will act if the bars are ‘illegal’; civic body puts onus on Food & Drug Administration

Pune still has to take vital decisions like Mumbai to check the mushrooming growth of hookah bars. In Mumbai,hookah bars stand to lose their licences if they do not abide by the provisions of Cigarettes and Tobacco Products Prohibition Act (COTPA) and smoking in public places rules. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.

The Bombay High Court in August last year brought hookah bars under the purview of COTPA and directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to ensure that these joints comply with the rules and regulations laid down under the Act.

Now,with Home Minister R R Patil warning of a ban on hookah bars in the state based on several complaints from parents in Mumbai and Pune,top officials in the city appointed to implement the Act say they “need to understand the legal framework under which action can be taken”.

Anant Shinde,additional commissioner of police (crime) told Newsline that action “will be taken if they are found to be illegal”.

Municipal commissioner Mahesh Pathak said the role of issuing licences to hotels and eateries is now with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “However,we will have to check if hookah is on the menu of the hotels,” he said.

According to Chandrakant Salunke,assistant commissioner,FDA,“There are 21 agencies appointed to implement COTPA and ensure that smoking is prohibited at public places. Mainly restaurants have hookahs in the smoking zone. Based on a few complaints last year,we had checked samples of molasses from a few hookah bars in some areas but they were found to have negligible nicotine content.”

FDA joint commissioner V S Rathod said till December 2011,4,410 persons were caught smoking at public places and in no-smoking zones at restaurants in the state. “This is in contravention of Section 4 of the COTPA and fines amounting to Rs 6.44 lakh were levied,” Rathod said. Fines amounting to Rs 2.32 lakh were collected from 1,433 persons for flouting section 6 (B) of the COTPA and selling tobacco products within 100 metres of an educational institution.

In Pune,from April 2011 till February 2012,Rs 14,634 was levied as fines.

Anti-tobacco activist Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi said the Bombay High Court had in fact given more powers to civic bodies to fight the battle against tobacco. “Awareness about COTPA is limited and it is not a priority for several agencies implementing the Act,” said advocate Arpita Singh — one of the lawyers supporting the petition against hookah bars.

However,for several restaurant owners in the city,a ban on hookahs — even if it was proposed — is uncalled for. Pawan Hemrajani,owner of a restaurant,said,“The nicotine or tobacco content in hookahs is negligible. There is,however,a general perception that smoke from the hookah is related to tobacco. Cigarettes are still being openly sold; why ban hookah bars?”

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