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Goan bars brace for smoking ban

October 06, 2008 17:51 IST

Goa's [Images] nondescript bars, which usually also serve as smoking holes, have turned into no-smoking zones within 48 hours of the new anti-smoking law coming into force.
It's 9.30 pm on Sunday, the usual time when the invariable cocktail of smoke and drinks run high in these bars. But now, the drinks are downed without a smoke, while few are seen struggling to get accustomed to the change.
The air inside this poorly lit eight-table dingy bar in the heart of Panaji is smoke-free. Prior to the ban, the air was full with smoke with almost every table having at least one smoker.

                                                   India: Not the first to ban smoking

"People request that I should allow them to smoke at least one cigarette which is required with the peg of liquor. But I don't take chance. Ban means ban," says Prashant Elekar, a bar owner who is also a retired photojournalist.
Elekar conceded that almost 90 per cent of the people, who frequent the bar are smokers and inevitably smoke with their drink.
The change is imminent though Goa is yet to start booking people for violating the two-day old law which prohibits smoking at public places and excludes spots like beaches and parks from the no smoking zones.
"We have stopped people from smoking. The result is exciting. It helps me too. I myself have reduced my cigarettes from 30 to just two a day, as I am on the bar counter all day," Elekar, in his late 40s, said.
There are some who are forced to go out for a smoke, standing on the road and then return for their peg. "But how many times will they go out? It becomes tedious for them and hence they prefer to drink without smoking," he explains.

The habitual drinkers and a liquor party are the major clients for these outlets, which operate between 10 am and to 2 pm and later between 7 pm  and 11 pm.
"Usually I never smoke, but I have to puff a cigarette while I am having my drink. I used to smoke one cigarette every peg. Usually my drinking goes up to five pegs.. now I have to drink without cigarette as I have no passion to rush to the road every time, I want to light a cigarratte," a regular customer to this liquor outlet, said.
Anti-tobacco crusaders are extremely happy with the positive change, especially at these outlets.
"Be it out of compulsion, but what is important that people are leaving the bad habit of smoking. There are many who would forget cigarette, if they don't get an opportunity to smoke. They are saving their live and lives of hundreds of others who become passive smokers," Dr Shekhar Salkar, an active member of state government's Tobacco Control Cell, said.
Salkar, who is also a leading memeber of India's leading anti-tobacco non-governmental organization National Organization for Tobacco Eradication, said that the media has played a major role in Goa to sensitise people about this act.
"We aim to have smoke free Goa, a dream which is not so difficult or far to achieve," he commented.

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