Chandigarh, which has been declared the best Indian city in terms of tobacco control by an international study, is preparing to further tighten laws around tobacco usage. At a meeting of the Chandigarh tobacco control cell, it was decided that enforcement of tobacco control legislation would be made stricter and the draft tobacco vendors licensing rules would be notified soon despite opposition from tobacco companies.

The global adult tobacco report – prepared by the WHO and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) – says the figure of tobacco users in Chandigarh has come down to 14 percent compared to the national average of 35 percent.

‘Tobacco kills nearly a million people in India every year and no opposition from any lobby would be allowed to interfere in decisions taken in the interest of the public, especially when it is going to save the lives of thousands of people,’ Chandigarh’s home-cum-health secretary Ram Niwas said here.

The report, made in collaboration with the union health ministry, pointed out that the number of females consuming tobacco is also one of the lowest in India with less than 1.7 percent women consuming any form of tobacco product compared to 20.3 percent across the country.

‘Chandigarh has also emerged as the best city in terms of exposure to second hand smoke,’ the report stated.

‘Less than 11 percent people have any kind of exposure to second hand smoke anywhere in the city, compared to the national average of 29 percent,’ it added.

The highest incidence of second-hand smoke was found in the northeastern state of Meghalaya, where over 54 percent are exposed to it.

‘No city in India can match up to the progress made by Chandigarh on the tobacco control front in the last four to five years,’ social activist Hemant Goswami, whose Burning Brain Society (BBS) has been at the forefront of efforts to make Chandigarh ‘smoke-free’ and control tobacco use, told IANS.

‘Chandigarh has emerged the best even though we can do more on this,’ he said.

Among the tobacco chewing population, Chandigarh had a low percentage of only 3.3 percent compared to the national average of 20.6 percent. Nearly one-third (34 percent) of the city’s population is that of migrants from other states.

Niwas said BBS had helped the Chandigarh administration achieve the high standards of excellence in tobacco control.

Chandigarh was officially declared a smoke-free city July 15, 2007, adding to its earlier tag of being the country’s ‘greenest’ and ‘cleanest’ city.

The 114 sq km city – the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana – has been trying to curb smoking in public areas since then. The idea to make the city a ‘smoke-free’ zone was mooted first by the BBS and adopted by the administration.