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Tobacco litter a challenge to a clean India: Environmental experts, 2014): Even as the Clean India campaign is making waves with both standalone and coordinated efforts in Kerala as across the country, acclaimed environmental experts  have called for no-holds-barred implementation of the ban on public smoking as a means to keep our cities, towns and villages clean and litter-free.

They contend that callously discarded cigarette stubs found abundantly in public places in violation of the smoking ban poses a challenge to dream of a clean India besides bringing the need for stricter implementation of laws to the fore.

Prof MK Prasad, noted environmental expert and educationist said, “While there are public discourses on the health impacts of tobacco use, its effect on the environment have come up for scant discussion in Kerala and India. Developed countries have woken up to this fact and have undertaken steps to identify the enormity of the problem. According to one estimate, the overall littering rate for cigarette butts in America is 65 per cent.”

“The non-biodegradable nature of cigarette butts, a hazardous solid waste, makes it a challenging area to address. The butts also contain dangerous chemicals such as cadmium, arsenic and lead. Stricter implementation of laws on public smoking will not only improve public health but also restrict the environmental damage caused from cigarette use,” Prof Prasad added.

A paper published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health cites that an estimated 1.69 billion pounds of butts are littered worldwide a year.

Adv. Harish Vasudevan, environmental law expert said, “Studies point out that tobacco refuse is a major source of litter on the planet. Filtered cigarettes offered as an alternative to reduce the amounts of nicotine and tar consumed are a mainstay with smokers now. Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate, a plastic slow to degrade.”

“Presence of cigarette stubs in public places provides cues for smoking. This major environmental and public health issue can be effectively controlled by implementing laws that prohibit smoking in public places. If sufficient multi-stakeholder efforts are not taken on time, it can pose a challenge to having a clean India,” Adv. Vasudevan added.

Indian tobacco control law COTPA, 2003 vide Section 4 prohibits smoking in all public places including public offices, educational institutions, public conveyances, restaurants, hotels, health institutions and all workplaces.

Highlighting how in-flight smoking has been effectively prohibited, Dr CN Mohanan, Retd., Scientist and Head, Environmental Sciences Division, Centre for Earth Science Studies here said that education, awareness generation and enforcement all have equal roles to play while addressing the cigarette litter issue.

“Policy backing, repetitive communication, and punishment for violators have made it possible to curb smoking during air travel. Similar measures will have to be taken to tackle cigarette littering in public places by enforcing laws against public smoking. Having a clean India is a collective dream; cigarette butt littering is something we cannot afford to ignore,” Dr Mohanan noted.

The Centre-State Rs 62,000 crore Clean India campaign launched by the Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi aims to accomplish the vision of a ‘Clean India’ by October 2, 2019. Among others, the campaign envisages cent per cent collection and scientific processing, disposal, reuse and recycling of solid waste.


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