It's official now. Come May 1, and the total ban on advertising of cigarettes and tobacco products will come into effect. From the same day smoking in public places and sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors would become an offence.
Speaking to presspersons on completion of one year in office, the Health Minister, Ms Sushma Swaraj, said, "The Bill on ban of tobacco products has been one of the important legislations cleared this year. We will shortly be notifying the ban on tobacco ads."
The Government had cleared the Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation) Bill 2001 which imposed a total ban on sponsoring of sports and cultural events by cigarette and other tobacco product companies.
Officials in the Health Ministry said, "Several tobacco companies have already booked ads for the forthcoming few months. We want to give them time till May 1, to fulfil those obligations."
The tobacco industry has been spending over Rs 200-250 crore per annum on advertising of its products, with ITC Ltd and Godfrey Philips India being the major advertisers.
The President, Dr A.P.J Abdul Kalam, had given his assent to the law banning advertising of tobacco products in May last year. But companies have continued advertising because the fine print stated that the ban would come into effect only after notification.
Besides curtailing advertising, the Bill also prohibits smoking in amusement centres, restaurants, railway waiting rooms, public offices or any place visited by the `general public'. However, it does not prohibit smoking in open spaces. Also, it provides for the designation of `smoking areas' in airports, hotels with 30 rooms and restaurants with 30 seats.
The sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products, as in the Bill, would not be allowed within a radius of 100 yards from educational institutions. Any violation of the Bill is punishable and the punishment involves imprisonment and fines ranging between Rs 1,000 and Rs 10,000.