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11 dispensaries, one hotel declared ‘smoke-free’

11 dispensaries, one hotel declared ‘smoke-free’

ISLAMABAD: Members of the Tobacco Smoke Free Capital project has declared 11 dispensaries and a hotel ‘smoke-free’ over the last week.

Efforts are being made to implement and strengthen existing smoke-free laws in local government, as it is currently difficult to take action against violators of smoking laws.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), taken in May this year, indicated that the average Pakistani adult smokes 4,500 cigarettes every year. With around 20 million smokers, the nation consumes roughly 90 billion cigarettes a year.

Although smoking is banned in public places, no-smoking laws are routinely violated. In addition, the (no-smoking) laws are also flouted at health facilities such as dispensaries.

It is due to the frequent violations that Smoke Free Capital members have visited 11 dispensaries located in the F, G, and I sectors. A well-known hotel in G-6 was also declared smoke-free.

The Deputy Director General of Health and Project Director Dr. Minhajus Siraj told Dawn that in addition to declaring the locations ‘smoke-free’, some of their staff members were nominated to ensure the implementation of the law.

“During meetings with the staff, we told them how they can discourage people from smoking and how they can ensure that strict monitoring takes place,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the law regarding smoking is weak. A FIR is not even registered against the violators, and instead a qalandra (complaint) is made against them,” he said, adding police send case in the court and usually fine is imposed in a qalandra.

In addition, there are no specific traffic laws regarding the violation of smoking.

According to Siraj, “Traffic police take action against those who smoke on public transport under Section 48, which is also used to target over-loading and other violations.

“We have been trying to make stricter laws against smoking by putting them in local government laws. In addition, a special section can be included in traffic police tickers through local laws,” he said.

According to documents available with Dawn, sub-divisional magistrate raided a café, and found it serving sheesha. The café was sealed and the owner fined Rs50,000. Less than ten days after the raid, the same café was again found violating the smoking laws, and was fined Rs100,000.

Siraj said that precedent shows that smoking can only be stopped by amending the law and carrying out strict punishments.

He said people needed to understand that smoking in public was detrimental to the health of not just smokers, but those around them.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2015

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