All polling booths to be smoke-free zones in State, says EC

It is not just the anti-tobacco lobby that breathed easy but also the no-smokers as the State Election Commission has announced that the polling booths across the state will be a ‘no-entry’ zone for smokers and consumers of tobacco in any form.
The Election Commission has declared all polling booths in the State as ‘tobacco-free’ zones
The Election Commission has declared all polling booths in the State as ‘tobacco-free’ zones


An official circular has been sent out to all personnel drafted for poll duty for to ensure that the booths and stations in the state are maintained strictly tobacco-free. 
The Chief Electoral Officer, Rajesh Lakhoni, who has been the driving force behind several novel measures has instructed all District Election Officers to see that there is no inconvenience to voters in any form, especially due to tobacco.
To achieve this goal, he has invoked Section 4 of the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003, which says polling booths/stations need to be considered as public places and that officers should ensure that spaces in and around polling stations are declared as no-smoking zones.
He further said that since polling stations will be located within the school premises, it is imperative that the rule prohibiting the sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of educational institutions is enforced during the elections. 
Further, the CEO has sought the cooperation of all Returning Officers, Zonal Officers and other officials to create tobacco free election booths during the upcoming elections by enforcing the ban on consumption of all tobacco products near election booths.
The development has been welcomed by activists in the state who say their work has only begun. 
Cyril Alexander, State Convener, TNPFTC, an NGO – working on tobacco control says, “We have been campaigning for these measures to be implemented for several months now and had approached the Chief Electoral Officer with our petition last month. It’s heartening to know that the government is taking positive steps towards the enforcement of the same.” 
He adds, “There is a lot more to be done on this front. The nexus between the tobacco lobby and members of various political groups also needs to be addressed. There should not be a conflict of interest when it comes to public health policies and the government officials entrusted with implementing them.”

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