Guwahati, June 25: The Commissionerate of Transport in Assam has issued instructions to all District Transport Officers (DTOs) to strictly enforce anti-tobacco laws in the public transport system of the state. In the first of its kind initiative from the Transport Department to tackle the menace of tobacco, Commissioner of Transport J Balaji though a letter dated June 18 requested all DTOs to take necessary steps for making public places like bus stands, parking places, all public conveyances, halting places, including Transport offices as No Smoking Area/Zone. (Read: E-cigarettes safer than normal cigarettes? Experts say otherwise) Also Read - Centre Committed to Fulfil Clauses of Bodo Accord; Only BJP Can Make Assam Free From Bullets, Agitation And Floods: Amit Shah

The letter from the Commissioner Transport also asked the DTOs to take necessary action against the violators as per the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Product Act (COTPA), 2003. The Commissioner directed the DTOs to launch a campaign to create awareness among drivers/handyman/vehicle operators against the use of smoking or non-smoking tobacco. Balaji through the letter also directed the DTOs to submit action taken report in this regard to the Commissioner’s office on a regular basis. Also Read - Meghalaya: 6 Migrant Workers Fall to Death in Deep Forest Pit

The letter was issued in reference to the discussion on COTPA implementation that had taken place at a meeting of all DTOs and held at the office of the Commissioner Transport on June 8 when the Tobacco Control team of Voluntary Health Association of Assam had presented a power point presentation on the role of the Transport Department officials on implementation of COTPA. Also Read - Foundation Day 2021 Tripura, Manipur and Meghalaya: Know Date, Significance and History of this Day

Giving this information, a press release of VHAA, a non-profit organisation working in the field of tobacco control in Assam for the last decade, said today it had initiated an advocacy campaign with the Transport Department in May last to push for making public transport system in the state tobacco free. The Tobacco Control team of the VHAA was invited to take part in the meeting of all DTOs held at the office of the Commissioner Transport on June 8, the release said.

Violation of section 4 of COTPA, 2003 (ban on smoking in public places) is still prevalent in public conveyance and on most occasions the staff involved in the public conveyance are found to be the violators, it asserted. Assam is a major victim of tobacco abuse with 39per cent of adults in the state consuming some form of tobacco – cigarettes, bidis and Smokeless (Gutka, Khaini, etc), the VHAA said.

According to experts other than the harms caused to smokers, smoking presents another major health hazard through second-hand smoking – smoke that has been exhaled or breathed out by the person or people smoking – causes a range of diseases in both children and adults. A recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare revealed that 51 per cent of adults were exposed to secondhand smoke at home and as well as in public places.