Oct. 2 2008
Washington, D.C. — The government of India today has taken a historic step to protect the health of the nation’s more than 1.1 billion citizens by implementing a national law that requires workplaces and public places to be smoke-free. India is the largest country in the world to implement a nationwide smoke-free law, and it joins a fast-growing global movement to protect non-smokers from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke.
This law is a significant step toward reducing the devastating toll of tobacco use and secondhand smoke in India. There are more than 120 million smokers in India, second only to China, and tobacco use kills more than 700,000 Indians each year. India’s health minister has estimated that 40 percent of the country’s health problems stem from tobacco use.
India’s smoke-free law prohibits smoking in workplaces and public places including hotels, restaurants, coffee houses, pubs, airport lounges, shopping malls, cinemas, educational institutions and libraries, hospitals, auditoriums and railway stations The law is a major step forward in India. However, it will not have the desired health benefits unless the government effectively enforces it. The law allows certain establishments, such as restaurants with 30 seats or more, to build separate smoking rooms, with no food or drink allowed to be served in these rooms. The government should also move quickly to eliminate these exemptions.
Another obstacle to the law’s success is the continued strong opposition of the hospitality industry, which has filed numerous legal challenges. Earlier this week, India’s Supreme Court rejected appeals to further delay implementation of the law, which was enacted in 2003. It is critical that India’s leaders reject further efforts to delay or weaken the law and act instead to effectively implement and strengthen it.
A poll conducted in August in four Indian cities, Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata, found that there is near universal support for prohibiting smoking inside all public places and workplaces in India. Overall, 97 percent of Indians surveyed expressed support for the smoke-free law, with 92 percent expressing strong support. The level of strong support ranged from 89 percent in New Delhi to 97 percent in Mumbai. In addition, 84 percent said they thought secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard, and 99 percent agreed that workers should be protected from secondhand smoke.
Facts About Secondhand Smoke and Smoke-Free Laws