Smoke Free in Kerala

Ernakulam, the business hub of Kerala, has become India’s first smoking-free tourist destination when the State Excise Minister, K Babu, declared the port city smoking-free at a recent function.

Ernakulam was established in 1958, by carving out areas of Travancore, Kochi & Malabar kingdoms. The word Ernakulam was derived from a Tamil word ‘Erayanarkulam’ which means ‘Lord Shiva’s abode’.

Many people might better know the area as Kochi, but that city only forms part of Ernakulam.

It is a former Portuguese colony, and was first settled because of its fine natural harbour.

The State of Kerala is popular with travellers because of its many inland waterways, where hiring houseboats and sailing the waterways is a popular way to see the area.

It took a total of 18-months of effort by the district administration, Health Department, Cochin Corporation and district panchayat to complete the ‘Smoke-Free’ Ernakulam project. Its aim is to control smoking in public places and the effective implementation of the Indian Tobacco Control Act.

The project was launched by putting warning signs against public smoking and the people’s right to smoke-free air in prominent public places. Later, training was given to police inspectors, panchayat secretaries, health inspectors in the Health Department and the corporation.

Officials now declare that an independent study conducted on smoking in public places had found that there was no active smoking in nearly 95 per cent of public places, which does include cinemas and restaurants.

In a country where many people smoke, attaining a 95 percent acceptance rate is quite a remarkable result.

The city achieved the bans 12 years after high court also banned smoking in public places throughout Kerala which was a first time for India.

The city has several tourist attractions including heritage buildings built by the Dutch, Portuguese, the English and the local kings; it is a premier tourism destination in the state. The smoking ban is the result of a petition that was first filed by a local housewife. She contacted the court after she said she was exposed to passive smoking while commuting by train between Cochin and Kottayam.

The police implemented the ban in the initial days by booking those people who smoked at bus stops and railway stations and penalising them with fines ranging from Rs200 to Rs500. The district of Kottayam took the passive smoking issue seriously and strictly implemented a ban it in all restaurants, hotels, municipal corporation and the area’s 75 villages.

It is uncertain whether or not the ban will have a positive effect on tourism, but in a country that does not have a reputation for the sweetness of its atmosphere, getting rid of just one range of odours can only be a good thing.

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