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Experts: A Ban On Designated Smoking Areas To Combat The Spread Of COVID

A ban has been called on designated smoking spaces in the country to stop the spread of coronavirus

With preventive healthcare taking the center stage in the fight against coronavirus, citizens, scientists, and politicians have called for the abolishment of designated smoking areas (DSAs) in public places like hotels, airports, and restaurants, which are not only a health threat to passive smokers but also likely hotspots of virus transmission in the absence of Covid-19 appropriate behavior.

While calling for a ban on such designated smoking spaces in the country, Raman Gangakhedkar, the C.G. Pandit National Chair at ICMR, said, “It has been seen that no safe distance norms are followed in these zones which are usually like smoke-filled chambers where people take off their masks and follow no social distancing norms. Hence, there are chances that the virus may remain airborne for a long period while smokers come and go, adding to the risk of transmission.”

“In the absence of Covid-19 safety norms, there is always a threat of transmission from such closed spaces, particularly at a time when we are facing the threat of the second wave of the pandemic,” he said.

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“Also, new evidence shows that people with pre-existing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are more susceptible to becoming severely ill with Covid-19, an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Tobacco, being one of the causes behind these NCDs, indirectly puts tobacco users and smokers at the risk of being affected by Covid-19. The death risk among such Covid-19 patients is two times higher than non-smokers. This just adds to the healthcare burden,” he added.

designated smoking areas
Smoking is banned in all designated smoking areas. Pixabay

Gangakhedkar, who is the former head of epidemiology and infectious diseases, ICMR, and member of the national task force for Covid-19, was the face of the government’s press briefings when Covid-19 was at its peak. He was speaking at a webinar on ‘100 percent smoke-free public places: challenges and way ahead’, organized by SpeakIn, an online learning and speakers’ platform.

Expressing similar views, BJP national spokesperson Gopal Krishna Agarwal said, “In the wake of Covid-19, the importance of preventive healthcare has gained importance. Banning designated smoking places, which are health hazards for non-smokers, will be just one of the preventive measures towards good health in times of the pandemic.”

“Public opinion should also be taken on the matter, but as smoking in public places impacts the health of non-smokers, a law will have a deterrent impact on the violators. Those violating the law should be stringently punished. Also, surrogate advertisements of tobacco companies trying to influence adolescents and youth should be banned,” he said while exhorting the people to come together to support the tobacco ban to ensure 100 percent smoke-free public places.

designated smoking areas
In India, smoking is banned in all public areas. Pixabay

Nalini Satyanarayan, a victim of second-hand smoking and health activist, also said that eateries, specifically hotels, restaurants, bars, and restaurants, should shut down smoking zones which are risks to the numerous passive smokers as they get exposed to the smoke of cigarettes.

In India, smoking is banned in all public areas as per the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003. Section 4 of this Act prohibits smoking in any place to which the public has access. However, the Act presently allows smoking in certain public places like restaurants, hotels, and airports, in designated smoking areas.

To plug the loopholes, the government has now proposed amendments in the existing law seeking a ban on designated smoking areas in public places and the sale of loose cigarettes, keeping in mind the increasing number of tobacco-related deaths.

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Available researches suggest that it is not only smokers who are at higher risk of developing severe diseases as it weakens the immune system, but there is also no safe level of second-hand smoke because exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer, asthma, pneumonia, and other lung injuries, beyond Covid-19.

According to various statistics, smoking causes 80 percent of deaths from lung cancer, bronchitis, and emphysema, and 17 percent of deaths from heart disease. More than one-quarter of all cancer deaths can be attributed to smoking. (IANS/KB)

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