A government’s ban on use of cigarettes and tobacco products in public places seems to be going up in smokes with over eight states across India not issuing any challan or imposing fine in the past.

According to the latest data available with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, from April 2012 to September 2015, at least 13 states, including Delhi, didn’t issue any challan or fine. Interestingly, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh have not issued any challan or imposed any fine for public smoking for last two consecutive years.

At least 10 states didn’t try to nab any offenders of the law in the year 2014-15. Karnataka has been the best performing state in terms of controlling smoking and other tobacco products in public places, issuing the highest number of challans and imposing fines in last three years: 32,475 in 2013-14, 156,198 in 2014-15 and 68,739 in 2015-16 (till September 2016).

Section 4 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement, Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA, 2003) prohibits smoking in public places. As per Section 21 of the COTPA, 2003, whoever contravenes the provisions of Section 4 shall be punished with a fine which may extend to Rs200.

Further, an offence under this section shall be compoundable and shall be tried in accordance with the procedure provided for summary trials under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Ministry officials have observed that the total number of challans issued in 2013-14 was 69,278, which increased to 224,402 in 2014-15 and slipped to 83,300 in 2015-16 wherein 13 states didn’t issue any challans.

Concerned over the situation, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has recently written and urged all the states to maintain a strict vigil on smoking in public places and issue challans and impose fines as and when required.

“Most of the states are monitoring smoking in public places well but few states have to work harder. With the current situation we have requested all the states to properly monitor the situation and use the law as per the requirement. The government has done a good job in curbing smoking in public places. We are also focusing on low performing states,” said C K Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

There are approximately 120 million smokers in India. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India is home to 12 per cent of the world’s smokers. Approximately 900,000 people die every year in India due to smoking as of 2009. As of 2015, the number of men smoking tobacco in rose to 108 million, an increase of 36 per cent, between 1998 and 2015.

Smoking in public places was prohibited nationwide from October 2, 2008 under the Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Rules, 2008 and COTPA.

The nationwide smoke-free law pertains only to public places. Places where smoking is restricted include auditoriums, cinemas, hospitals, public transport (aircraft, buses, trains, metros, monorails, taxis) and their related facilities (airports, bus stands/stations, railway stations), restaurants, hotels, bars, pubs, amusement centres, offices (government and private), libraries, courts, post offices, markets, shopping malls, canteens, refreshment rooms, banquet halls, discothèques, coffee houses, educational institutions and parks.