India bans smoking in public places

In collaboration with the Press Association

India has become the latest nation to introduce a ban on smoking in public places.

The legislation represents the world's biggest smoking ban and the nation's 120 million smokers could be landed with a 200 rupee fine (about £2.50 - a sizeable amount to the average Indian) if they fail to comply with the law.

Although India already had anti-smoking laws forbidding smoking in college campuses, bars and discos since 2003, these were widely ignored.

The latest legislation seeks to strengthen the rules and extend them so that smokers can only light up in their own homes, in parks or on the roadside, and the government is hopeful that its citizens will be sufficiently deterred by the threat of a fine.

Health minister Anubamani Ramadoss conceded that the ban is unlikely to have a major impact immediately but insisted that it is necessary to cut tobacco-related deaths.

He told the Times of India: "Many women and youngsters have welcomed this. They congratulated me for launching the battle against the tobacco lobby.

"I am passionate about implementing this Act," he added. "I hope the people will volunteer to help us implement this Act and give non-smokers their right to a nicotine-free environment."

As well as concerns over enforcement of the ban, the Indian government also faces opposition from the hotel industry and tobacco companies.

However, experts regard it as a necessary step - a view supported by a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine which claimed that India's smoking epidemic could be causing nearly one million deaths a year by 2010.