Ban designated smoking areas in public places to curb the spread of Covid: experts

New Delhi: As preventive health care takes center stage in the fight against the coronavirus, citizens, scientists and politicians have called for the removal of Designated Smoking Areas (DSAs) in public places like hotels, airports and public areas. restaurants, which are not only a threat to the health of passive smokers, but also likely hot spots for virus transmission in the absence of appropriate Covid-19 behavior.

While calling for the ban of these designated smoking areas in the country, Raman Gangakhedkar, the national president of CG Pandit at ICMR, said: “We have seen that no safety distance standard is followed in those areas that usually look like smoke-filled rooms. where people take off their masks and don’t follow any standards of social distancing. Therefore, there is a chance that the virus will stay airborne for a long time as smokers come and go, increasing the risk of transmission.

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

“What’s more, new evidence shows that people with pre-existing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are more likely to become seriously ill with Covid-19, an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Tobacco, which is one of the causes of these NCDs, indirectly exposes tobacco users and smokers to the risk of being affected by Covid-19. The risk of death in these Covid-19 patients is twice as high as in non-smokers. This only adds to the burden of health care, ”he added.

Gangakhedkar, former head of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases, ICMR, and member of the National Task Force for Covid-19, was the face of government press briefings when Covid-19 was at its peak. He was speaking at a webinar on “100% Smoke-Free Public Places: Challenges and Prospects,” hosted by SpeakIn, an online learning and speaker platform.

Expressing similar views, BJP national spokesperson Gopal Krishna Agarwal said: “In the wake of Covid-19, the importance of preventive health care has grown in importance. The ban on designated smoking areas, which constitute health risks for non-smokers, will only be one of the preventive measures towards good health during a pandemic. “

“Public opinion should also be taken on the issue, but since smoking in public places has an impact on the health of non-smokers, a law will have a deterrent effect on offenders. Those who break the law must be severely punished. In addition, substitution ads from tobacco companies that attempt to influence adolescents and young people should be banned, ”he said while urging people to come together in support of the tobacco ban to ensure 100% smoke-free public places.

Nalini Satyanarayan, victim of secondhand smoke and health activist, also said restaurants, especially hotels, restaurants, bars and eateries, should close smoking areas which pose risks for many passive smokers when they are exposed to cigarette smoke. .

In India, smoking is prohibited in all public spaces in accordance with 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 law currently allows smoking in certain public places such as restaurants, hotels and airports, in designated smoking areas.

To fill the gaps, the government has now proposed changes to existing law to ban designated smoking areas in public places and the sale of bulk cigarettes, keeping in mind the growing number of tobacco-related deaths.

Available research suggests that it is not only smokers who are at a higher risk of developing serious illnesses because it weakens the immune system, there is no safe level of secondhand smoke because exposure to smoke secondary increases the risk of lung cancer, asthma, pneumonia and other lung damage, beyond Covid-19.

According to various statistics, smoking is responsible for 80% of deaths from lung cancer, bronchitis and emphysema and 17% of deaths from heart disease. More than a quarter of all cancer deaths can be attributed to smoking.