Ernakulam, the business hub of Kerala, has become India’s first smoking-free tourist destination. State Excise Minister, K Babu declared the port city smoke-free at a function held at Trivandrum on Sunday. Residents’ associations, the Hotel and Restaurant Association, Vyapari Vyavasayi Association, Hotel and Bar Association, and other civil society groups declared their solidarity to the endeavour of ensuring and maintaining smoke-free status of public places. This was the result of 18-months of efforts made by the district administration, Health Department, Cochin Corporation and district panchayat under ‘Smoke-Free Ernakulam’ project. It was aimed at controlling smoking in public places under the Indian Tobacco Control Act.
The project was launched by putting warning signs against public smoking and the people’s right to smoke-free air in prominent public places. Later, training was given to police inspectors, panchayat secretaries, health inspectors in the Health Department and the corporation. District Collector Sheik Pareeth said an independent study conducted on smoking in public places had found that there was no active smoking in nearly 95% of public places, including cinema halls and restaurants. The city achieved the feat 12 years after the High Court banned smoking in public places throughout Kerala – a first for the country. Ernakulam, which has several key visitor attractions including heritage buildings built by the Dutch, Portuguese, the English and the local kings, is a premier tourism destination in the state.