Civil society succeeds in forcing compliance with smoke-free law

Hemant Goswami/Chandigarh

Chandigarh became the first city in India to initiate and fully implement the Government of India’s smoke-free laws. On 15 July 2007, the Chandigarh Administration declared its smoke-free city status. The smoke-free policy followed in Chandigarh is extensive and in addition to making indoor places smoke-free, it prohibits smoking in outdoor spaces including parks, markets and other public places where people gather.

The 2003 Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) set out specific provisions to address smoking in public places. The COTPA rules of 2004 and, more recently, the Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Rules of 2008 set out how the smoke-free provisions in the law are applied in practice. The smoke-free law does permit designated smoking areas to be provided in hotels with more than 30 bedrooms, in restaurants with seating capacity for more than 30 customers and in airports. Nevertheless, there are strict conditions for where they can be sited, what it is permitted to do within them and how they must be constructed.

Fact file: Chandigarh, India

Population: 900 000

Smokers:
Males: 17% Females: <1%

Key actions

Until 2007, there was little implementation in Chandigarh of the smoke-free, or indeed, the wider tobacco control provisions of the 2003 legislation. In this context, civil society played a key role in pushing for implementation of the law. Key actions by civil society and the local administration in Chandigarh included:

  • Awareness raising activities with the public officials and the wider populace.
  • Utilising the provisions of other laws to strengthen smoke-free legislation.
  • Utilising freedom of information legislation to identify where the smoke-free law was not being adhered to, to bring public bodies to account and to generate compliance.
  • A high profile campaign in the local media to sensitise the public about the law and the reasons for it and to counter, in advance, likely arguments from the tobacco industry and others opposing the legislation.
  • Training of enforcers - including the Police - in understanding the tobacco control law and the procedures for enforcing it.
  • Active enforcement by the Police and the Food and Drug Inspectors of the Department of Health. Both integrated tobacco control enforcement activity into their routine operations.

Impact

  • High levels of compliance in displaying signs and with regard to smoking in public areas.
  • Reduced exposure to second-hand smoke and reduced tobacco consumption.
  • Some evidence that the smoking ban has not impacted negatively on hospitality sector jobs and is unlikely to have made a significant difference to the sector’s turnover.
  • Chandigarh has served as an example for other nearby cities and other States seeking to implement similar policies.

Lessons learnt

  • The Chandigarh experience is an example of how civil society can play an important role and how meaningful partnerships can result in tangible results.
  • Smoke-free agendas can utilise other legislation to implement and enforce policies in a comprehensive way.
  • Pre-emptive, evidence-based mass communication strategies can counteract tobacco industry propaganda.
  • An expeditious approach to implementing smoke-free policies can maintain the motivation of public officials whilst nullifying reactions from the tobacco industry.
  • Active enforcement demonstrates that the authorities will enforce the law and that it will not just remain a law “on paper”.
  • Systematic compliance monitoring by the local authorities would provide a more robust and comprehensive picture of compliance with different aspects of the law.
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