Thiruvananthapuram: Even as the Clean India campaign is going on in the country, acclaimed environmental experts have called for no-holds-barred implementation of the ban on public smoking as a means to keep the 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 the dream of a clean India besides bringing the need for stricter implementation of laws to the fore.
Prof M K Prasad, 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," he said.
"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," Prasad said.
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.
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," he said.
"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," he said.
Indian Tobacco Control Law COTPA, 2003 wide Section 4 prohibits smoking in all public places including public offices, educational institutions, public conveyances, restaurants, hotels, health institutions and all workplaces.