New Delhi: 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.
Moreover, hotels, restaurants and airports will now have to prominently display a board at the entrance of designated smoking areas with the warning: ‘Tobacco smoking is harmful to your health and the health of non-smokers’.
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 with the message written in English and one Indian language “as applicable”, in black.
Apart from the message, the board will also have to state that the smoking area is off-limits for people below the age of eighteen years. 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.
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.
According to Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an hour-long hookah-smoking session involves 200 puffs, while smoking an average cigarette involves 20 puffs. In fact, second-hand smoke from hookahs can also be a health risk for non-smokers. It contains smoke from the tobacco as well as smoke from the heat source, like charcoal, used in the hookah. Hookah smokers may be a risk for some of the same diseases as cigarette smokers, like oral cancer.