About six months ago, I was with friends, dining at a the Blue Spice at Koramangala. It was after the smoking ban had come into effect. However, people continued to smoke in that restaurant - I was especially annoyed as people were smoking in the table next to me. I summoned the manager of the hotel, and pointed out to him that smoking in restaurants are not allowed, he shamelessly told me, in not the exact words I am going to use, that people will smoke in his restaurant and I can fuck off.
While the smoking ban in most cities in India remains unenforced, data has come in from countries in Europe about just how effective a properly enforced smoking ban can be. Research points out that in countries in which smoking was banned in public places including bars, the number of heart attacks reduced by 17% in the first year of enforcement of the ban alone, and after three years, the number of heart attacks had reduced by 36%. Yes, we are talking about actual number of heart attacks, not *risk* of heart attacks as most studies of effects of tobacco suggest. The research also suggests that it was not just smokers who became more healthy, the number of heart attacks went down among non-smokers as well. This is proof of the effects of second hand smoke, and adds concrete to the argument of a mandatory smoking ban. Of course, the tobacco lobby will rubbish this, tomorrow.
It is about time that India's smoking ban was enforced, and the provisions were changed so as to make it more effective. Some of the things that I would do if I were to write this law are
1. Make the owner of a restaurant/head of an establishment responsible for ensuring that smoking is not allowed in the restaurant/establishment
2. If there is proof of smoking in the restaurant/establishment, the person responsible for ensuring compliance to the law should face both an imprisonment and fine (without fail)
3. Allow police to act against such a person and take him into custody based on an FIR
4. Allow photographic evidence in courts to prove that the ban was not enforced in the establishment/restaurant.
Right now, the smoking ban appears like a law without teeth. The most that the authorities will do is to enforce a fine on the smoker. I think the onus has to be passed from the smokers to the owners, and a fine is not enough to enforce the law. For owners of restaurants, the fine is a paltry sum to pay compared to the business loss they might have by not allowing smoking (hookah bars will close down, and Mochas will see half the business they usually do). A provision for imprisonment, in my opinion, will give this law sufficient teeth to be enforced.