Limited awareness and official neglect have provided people in the city with a catalyst to smoke on public transport without any fear of the law.
This has heightened the risk of passive smoking, which remains a silent killer. Tens of thousands of people have contracted cancer and respiratory diseases. At least 600,000 out of six million global deaths are only passive smokers.
The practice violates laws on tobacco control in public spaces.
Under Section 6 of Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Ordinance 2002, no one is allowed to smoke or use tobacco in any other form in a public service vehicle.
As per the law, anyone who contravenes this clause will be liable to pay a fine that may extend to Rs1,000. If the person continues to violate this law, he will have to pay a fine which shall not be less than Rs1,000 and could extend up to Rs100,000.
Unfortunately, few people have understood the seriousness of the offence and continue to flout the law with impunity.
Beyond the mandate
Traffic Senior Superintendent of Police Sadiq Baloch told The Express Tribune checking smoking in public and private vehicles was not included in the mandate of traffic police.
“We cannot issue tickets to people for smoking in vehicles,” he said.
He added the provincial government has adopted a lax attitude towards the implementation of this law.
“This is evident as thousands of people are seen smoking openly in public transport in the city each day,” he said.
Fozia Bibi, a nurse at Khyber Medical Centre, said drivers, conductors and passengers smoke excessively in crowded public buses.
“This irritates non-smokers and adversely affects their health,” she said. “I am allergic to cigarette smoke. It gives me a terrible headache.”
According to Fozia Bibi, smoking not only causes cancer and leads to heart attacks but also causes explosions when smokers light cigarettes in their cars.
“Scores of people die and are injured in the city every year due to explosions caused by smoking cigarettes in vehicles,” Fozia Bibi said.
Rabia Jan, a student, said, “The practice of smoking on public transport in the provincial capital is increasing at an alarming rate but the authorities have turned a blind eye towards the issue.”
Recalling her experience, the student said she was taking her asthmatic grandmother to the hospital in a rickshaw whose driver was smoking. Throughout the journey, her grandmother coughed incessantly and was heavily inconvenienced.
“I requested him to put out his cigarette and he luckily agreed,” Jan said.
She added no one has the right to put the lives of hundreds of people at risk.
According to a study conducted by Aga Khan University in collaboration with All Pakistan Women’s Association and National Alliance for Tobacco Control, Asia Pacific region represents the fastest-growing tobacco market in the world with Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam being the top four countries reporting rapid increase in tobacco use.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Rafeeq Khan, a trader said, “Besides health hazards, smoking also causes air and land pollution – cigarette smoke pollutes the air while the ash and stubs pollute the land.”
Citing a study from Italy, he said, smoke emitted from cigarettes is 10 times more damaging than that emitted by cars.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2016.