On August 30 this year, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) had issued a public notice banning smoking inside all hotels, bars and pubs in the city. The BBMP had, however, stated that these establishments can have enclosed smoking zones and must obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) for the same.
However, a month after the notice was issued, BBMP officials say that only two bars have applied for the NOC so far. Many restaurants and bars do not have a smoking zone and are allowing customers to smoke inside the premises, they say.
Officials add that one of the reasons why the establishment owners have not applied so far to avoid surprise checks.
"We wanted to keep the process democratic. The health department does not indulge in moral policing. Our goal is to ensure that non-smokers do not get affected by the fact that so many people smoke openly in bars, pubs and restaurants. Also, some of the establishments have smoking zones but they are not enclosed. If these establishments apply for an NOC then the BBMP will be able to conduct surprise checks to see if they are following norms. We have told the establishments to either ban smoking or obtain an NOC," said Dr Savita, BBMP Officer-in-charge of the Tobacco Control Programme.
The BBMP's Tobacco Control Programme had introduced the ban on smoking in hotels and bars as a part of its "tobacco-free" goal. BBMP officials say that the aim was to make the city tobacco-free by 2030.
"So far, we have not given anyone a deadline to apply for the NOC. Once a restaurant owner or bar owner applies for the NOC, BBMP will inspect and see if the smoking zone meets the prescribed standards. Then an NOC will be issued. Surprise checks will be conducted to see if this rule is being followed. We will give one warning and then cancel the trade license of the said establishment," she added.
According to a Government of India notification issued in August, any establishment such as a pub, bar, hotel and restaurant that has a seating capacity of more than 30 members can have a designated smoking zone and it is mandatory for them to get a no-objection certificate from the BBMP tobacco control cell.
A senior health officer with the BBMP told TNM that over 60% of the bars in Bengaluru and over 50% of restaurants do not have proper smoking zones and the customers are allowed to smoke in the open. "These establishment owners fear that with more restrictions, their businesses would take a hit. We are concerned about public health and it is wrong to put non-smokers at risk," the official said.
Dr Savita said that the form to apply for the NOC will be uploaded on the BBMP website and establishment owners could apply for NOC, which would be available within 20 days. "They don't even have to run around for an NOC. It will all be online," she added.