Cigarette butt collection drive in Bengaluru for tightening public smoking rules

Hundreds of National Service Scheme volunteers, citizens and civil society organisations have started a campaign in Bengaluru to collect cigarette and beedi butts to highlight the rampant smoking in public places. They have urged the Union government to amend the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA).

COTPA, which came into effect in 2003, prohibits smoking in public places. (Express photo)

The cigarette and beedi butt collection campaign is led by an NGO, the Consortium for Tobacco-Free Karnataka, and was flagged off on Thursday by former MP and retired IPS officer HT Sangliana, former Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun and Dr K Ravi, dean and director of the Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute.

The three-week campaign will culminate on World No-Tobacco Day, May 31, at the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, where all the collected cigarettes and beedi butts will be displayed. Members of Parliament will be invited and a memorandum will be submitted requesting them to raise in Parliament the issue of rampant smoking in public places and get the COTPA amendment bill passed.

COTPA, which came into effect in 2003, prohibits smoking in public places. The fine prescribed for smoking in public as per the existing COTPA is a paltry Rs 200.

Sangliana said, “COTPA was introduced in 2003 and almost 20 years have passed since. For any law to be effective, it has to be amended as time progresses. Though smoking in public places is restricted, we find this [rule] blatantly violated, risking the lives of innocents by forcing them into passive smoking. Through the cigarette and beedi butt collection campaign, we urge the Union government to take an important step towards improving public health by amending COTPA 2003.”

Gangambike said, “Tobacco is a big threat to our children and youths. They fall prey to tobacco advertisements and consider smoking a cool habit. When the legal age of tobacco use is increased from existing 18 to 21 years, we can prevent our teenagers from tobacco abuse. Stringent regulations with hefty fines should be in place and this can happen if COTPA is strengthened through an amendment.”

Oncologist Dr Ramesh Bilimagga, president of the Consortium for Tobacco-Free Karnataka, said World No-Tobacco Day 2022 is observed with the theme “Tobacco: Threat to our environment”.

“As a token of contribution, we would like to appeal to all citizens of Bangalore, organisations and institutions to collect the cigarette and beedi butts in their neighbourhood in bags provided,” he added, urging the Union government to pass the COTPA Amendment Bill 2020 in the upcoming monsoon session.

If the amendment bill is passed, the fine for smoking in public places will be Rs 2,000, the legal age to purchase tobacco products will go up from existing 18 to 21 years and the loose sale of cigarettes will be disallowed.

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