After becoming India’s first tobacco advertisement-free state, Kerala is fast heading to be the first in the country to have its transport services free from the noxious, carbon-monoxide laden tobacco smoke. A series of far-reaching directions issued under the leadership of Hon’ble Kerala Transport Minister Shri Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan by the surface and water transport wings in the last couple of months are significant in propelling Kerala to the forefront in public health.
In compliance with the provisions of Indian tobacco control law COTPA, 2003, the Transport Commissioner Smt R Sreelekha has issued directions to all Deputy Transport Commissioners, Regional Transport Officers and Joint Regional Transport Officers to take action against any instances of smoking in public conveyances, bus depots and transport bus stands.
Officials including and above Ticket Conductors/Collectors have been authorised under COTPA to fine smokers in public conveyances. Violations can invite a fine of up to Rs 200.
Pictorial ‘No Smoking’ signages have to be displayed in all public vehicles at a prominent place, as mandated by Section 4 of the Act. Inspections for vehicle registration and fitness certificate issuance will check that the said pictorial signages are exhibited in the vehicle.
Similarly, directions have been issued to ensure that there are no direct and indirect advertisements, sponsorship of tobacco products on public conveyances, as mandated by Section 5 of COTPA.
Transport Commissioner has also ordered that offences under COTPA – violations of Section 4 and 5 – will form part of the monthly checking report of the Department. These directions are binding on all public conveyances including autos, taxis, and private buses.
Smt Sreelekha said, “The World Health Organisation has said that only 100 per cent smoke-free environments will adequately protect the public from dangers of second-hand smoke. We are determined to create a healthy and safe public transport in Kerala and are in the process of creating sustainable and transparent systems of implementation.”
The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has strictly prohibited smoking and sale of tobacco products in all their buses, bus stations, and offices. All Unit Heads have been directed to ensure that no tobacco products are sold in any stall or canteen inside KSRTC depots and ‘No Smoking Area’ boards placed in all KSRTC bus stations.
All serviceable boats under the State Water Transport Department in Kerala have displayed ‘No Smoking’ signages as a measure of warning and protecting passengers from the ills of tobacco smoke. Special squads have been formed to inspect any cases of smoking onboard.
Railways have also implemented a ban on smoking and Kerala Railway Police and Railway Protection Force have been keeping a strict vigil on smoking in trains.