In a move to curb use of hookahs in hotels and restaurants, the government has prohibited food and drinks from being served in designated smoking areas.
The new smoking rules notified by the Union health ministry prohibits "services” in the smoking zones.
Also, hotels, restaurants and airports will have to mandatorily display a board outside the smoking zones mentioning in English and one Indian language in black colour that "tobacco smoking is harmful to health of both smokers and non-smokers and entry of anyone below the age of 18 is prohibited”.
The new rules are part of changes made by the health ministry to the Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Rules, 2008, through a new notification. The ministry has also prescribed specific guidelines for the warning sign: it should at least be 60cmx30cm in size, and have a white background.
Sources said the changes were made as the earlier rule —which allowed smoking only in designated areas — was being misinterpreted by several restaurant and hotel owners. Officials feel that the changes in the rules became imperative with smoking a hookah becoming latest trend among youngsters. "The earlier rules were exploited by many hotel and restaurant owners to offer hookah services. The new rule will fix the loophole and will regulate the use of hookahs which has become a latest fad among youngsters.
The law permits smoking at airports, hotels with over 30 rooms, and restaurants with a seating capacity of more than 30, and other enclosed places that have designated smoking areas. The notification will help take stringent action against clubs, hotels and restaurants serving hookahs in violation of Section 4 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA).
The section prohibits smoking in all public places, which is defined as any place to which the public has access and includes all places visited by the general public.
Hookahs are water pipes used to smoke specially-made tobacco that comes in different flavours, such as apple, mint, cherry, chocolate, coconut, and watermelon. Although many users think it is less harmful, hookah smoking carries same health risks as cigarette smoking.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has found hookah smoking equally injurious to health. In fact, second-hand smoke from hookahs can also be a major health risk for non-smokers. It contains smoke from the tobacco as well as smoke from the heat source (e.g. charcoal) used in the hookah.
Importantly, tobacco related diseases kills about 2,500 Indians daily and over 10 lakh Indians every year.