Some Reactions From Bollywood to India's Ban on Public Smoking

India has become the latest country to ban smoking in most public places, starting Thursday (2nd of October, 2008). The government has made smoking a top issue, with Bollywood stars urged by the health minister to stub out their cigarettes and on-screen smoking forbidden.

Here are some stars from Bollywood - Saif, Himesh Reshammiya and Manoj Bajpai react to government's efforts to stub out smoking, which kills an estimated one million people in the ountry, every year.

Saif Ali Khan

Starting today, smoking in public places will be a punishable offense. Saif Ali Khan talks about how he quit smoking after it nearly killed him

• When did you start smoking?
In London. When I was 16. I started smoking because I thought it was really cool to smoke. I’d look into mirror and blow smoke rings into the air. It eventually became a habit. I’d smoke all the time. It kept my brain functioning when I was shooting long hours. Then I read Ayn Rand. She said it’s apt for a man to smoke because it means his brain is also ignited. I don’t know many lives that kind of philosophy has messed up. One should be careful about such ‘cool’ habits being propagated in literature.

• When did you quit smoking and why?
Right after I was admitted in the hospital for a heart condition. When doctors said it was smoking that brought it on, I quit completely.

• How do you avoid the temptation?
It’s highly addictive, that’s for sure. And anyone who gives it up after 15 years like I did has an uphill task staying clean. But then you’ve your work and other diversions to keep your mind off the cancer stick. Smoking is a terrible habit and I’m happy about the public ban on smoking.

• But isn’t it a curb on personal freedom?

Then why not let people smoke marijuana and snort coke? Why act moral about those poisonous drugs and not nicotine, which is just as powerful and lethal? Nicotine kills more people than any other drug.

• So you’re happy about the ban?
I think smoking is extremely unfair for those who are forced to be passive smokers. Now that I’m on the other end, I hate people smoking around me. But I’m big on freedom. I think smoking should be completely banned in confined places.

• What about banning smoking in films?

I don’t agree with that at all. If I play a drug addict in a film, I will have to be shown taking drugs. It doesn’t mean that I’ll be glorifying it. Sometimes to condemn an evil practice in films you’ve to show it. But yes, films which have smoking scenes should be given an ‘A’ certificate.

• Any final thoughts?
Smoking should not be treated as a trivial vice. It’s a drug and it kills you. Smoking nearly killed me. Nobody should smoke. I feel bad for smokers who have to quit as I know how tough it is to quit. I miss it sometimes, even though it almost killed me.

• Do you want a total ban on smoking?
I repeat, I am big on personal freedom. I don’t want to smoke and I don’t want anyone I love to smoke. I certainly don’t want my children to smoke. When I was 25, I smoked in front of my mother. I wonder how I got away with it. To damage your own system in front of a parent is a rude thing to do. If my son smoked, I won’t stand it.

Himesh Reshammiya, Actor, Singer

I have quit smoking ‘for life and wish everyone does the same. It is not difficult and smoking is extremely dangerous for one’s health. I hope this move helps more and more people to quit smoking.

Manoj Bajpai, Actor

I don’t think banning smoking in public places is a solution to the problem. There should be a ban on the manufacturing rather than smoking. Nothing should come in the territory of morality and it should depend on one’s own consciousness and awareness. Why tell people what is wrong when one can buy a cigarette at every nook and corner?

Javed Akhtar, Lyricist

I quit smoking years ago, so I am not directly affected by the move. But I feel a blanket ban will be unfair to smokers. The government can designate smoking and non-smoking zones. If the government is so keen on a blanket ban, why does it not ask tobacco manufacturers to shut shop?

The nationwide band on smoking in public places will be implemented starting today. The central government notification issued on May 30, 2008 bans smoking in all public places such as railway stations, airports, all workplaces, educational institutions, libraries, courts, cinema halls, hospitals, restaurants, shopping malls, hotels, buses, trains, taxis, autos, discotheques, canteens and even private offices. An exception is hotels and restaurants, which can allow smoking in segregated areas with high walls and automated doors. But, food and drinks cannot be served in that area. The law can be enforced by the head of an office or human resource manager at private companies. In government offices, gazetted officers have powers to take offenders to the magistrate. Anybody caught flouting the rule will be fined Rs 200.

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