Smoking tobacco and its sale has been regulated by the Government of India time and again to ensure that the health of the people is secured. The concept of smoking is not new to the Indian society. The history of smoking is traced in Atharveda which is one of the most ancient Vedic Scripture of Hinduism.
The Hindu Scripture Atharveda mentions about cannabis smoking in India in 2000 B.C. it also says about the fire offerings for medicinal purposes. It is said that tobacco was introduced in India in 1600's.
Earlier humans were treated as chattels and were sold and used for the purpose of slavery and were not given the privilege to enjoy even the basic human rights.
However, the situation has changed over the period of time a great value and emphasis is laid on the protection of human rights. India is a welfare state endeavours to develop the standard of living of its people and ensure that the basic rights guaranteed to them are not violated.
The Constitution of India under Chapter III provides the list of fundamental rights. Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees to every person right to life and personal liberty. The ambit of Article 21 has been expanded to include the right to health which is also a basic human right. The right to life also includes the right to clean environment as in polluted environment good health cannot be attained which is also an essential of the right to life.
Tobacco causes various health hazards which affect the human life directly as well as indirectly. To improve the public health various steps have been taken by the Government of India to curb the consumption of tobacco but these steps could not achieve their objective due to the lack of implementation.
The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertising and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 is enacted to protect the health of the public. The Act prohibits smoking in public places and also imposes a fine upon the violator. The Act also bans the advertisement of tobacco products for the purpose of promotion.
Time and again various campaigns have been launched and free legal advice camps have been organized by the Government and various voluntary organizations, educating people about the effects of tobacco smoking.
The best Supreme Court lawyers in India while dealing with cases concerning tobacco smoking and anti-smoking laws have brought before the court the hazardous effect of smoking on the non-smokers.
In Murli S. Deora Vs UOI (2002 SC 40) the Hon'ble Supreme Court has acknowledged the harm which is caused by active as well as the passive smoking and held that non-smokers should not be forced under any circumstances to inhale second-hand smoke in public. The Hon'ble Court thereafter prohibited smoking in public places and also issued directions to the Government to ensure by taking steps that prohibition on smoking in public places is implemented.
In yet another case of K. Ramakrishnan vs. state of Kerala (AIR 1999 Ker 385) the judiciary while facing the question with regards the issue of public health from the danger of passive smoking the Court held that smoking in public places is a punishable offense and smoking in public place violates the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertising and Regulation of trade and commerce, production, supply and distribution) Act, 2003 known as COTPA was enacted with the object to protect the public health as it prohibited smoking in the public places and also banned the advertisement of tobacco products for promotion. Some of the key features of the Act are as follows:
Section 4: this section of the Act strictly provides that no person shall smoke in any public place. The section however in itself draws exceptions to this general rule by stating that smoking can be permitted in hotels having more than 30 rooms or restaurants having a seating capacity of 30 persons or more and in airports, a separate area is to be created which is to be dedicated for smoking purpose.
Section 6: under this section, no person is allowed to sell, offer for sale or permit any sort of sale of cigarette or tobacco to any person who is below the age of 18 years or is within the radius of 100 meters of an educational institution.
Section 7: this section prohibits the production, commercialization, or trade, of tobacco or cigarette without displaying a warning on the package containing tobacco or cigarette in the prescribed manner. The warning displayed on the package must necessarily occupy 40% of the principal display area on the front of the packet and such other warnings as may be prescribed. The Act also lays that nicotine and tar content in the product should not exceed the maximum permissible limit.
After the enactment of this Act India also became a member of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
The steps were taken by the Government endeavour to ensure that public health is maintained and India is made a smoke free country.
However, a moral responsibility also lies on the top Supreme Court lawyers and best High Court lawyers and other lawyers to educate people about their rights and responsibilities and to help the Government in achieving the objective of the smoke free nation by taking part in various free legal consultation online and free legal camps to ensure that the objective of the Act is achieved and India becomes a smoke free nation.