In what may seem like a case of the law losing teeth,the number of defaulters fined in the city under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act of 2008 (COTPA) for smoking in public have radically decreased over the past six months. As per the records of the Food and Drugs Association (FDA),Mumbai has seen the least number of fined defaulters in April-September with only six persons being fined for violating the law. In contrast,the number of offenders fined for this period in Pune was 130,Nagpur 12,Amravati 126,Aurangabad 26 and Nashik division 112. As many as 1,042 people were fined between April 2010-March 2011 under the COTPA in Mumbai.
FDA officials said their already short-staffed organisation cannot be expected to ensure thorough implementation of the law when their main focus is on food. FDAs primary concern has always been to implement the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA). We have a small team of about 20 inspectors to do this which is why implementation of COTPA takes a backseat. Yet,we have been making efforts through campaigns to spread awareness about the Act, said an FDA official.
I cannot comment on or ask other authorised persons to be more proactive. However,it would help if the entire onus of enforcing the law is taken seriously by other authorised parties as well. Many people are unaware that they have the power to take action against defaulters, said G H Rathod,Joint Commisioner (Food) of the FDA.
We constantly organise campaigns and workshops with schools and colleges to sensitise students and tell the heads of the institutions that by law they are obligated to take action, said Rathod. In fact,the FDA is organising a workshop funded by the WHO and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare this month to educated authorised officers about the law.
While various NGOs have raised their voice against tobacco,there are some who feel these efforts are still stuck on paper.
In BMC schools itself there are hundreds of children who are found smoking in the bathrooms. Paan,beedi shops give gutka packets to children instead of exact change, said Vincent Nazareth,chairman of Crusade Against Tobacco. In spite of the law prohibiting it,you will find gutka shops within a 100-metre radius of many schools. We have made several appeals to the Health Minister,but no action has been taken against such shops, said Nazareth.