Twelve trained enforcement squads for tobacco control will keep strict vigil on establishments and individuals violating the Control of Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) over the next few weeks, with one squad operating per taluka.
The squads will fine people and issue challans for smoking in public places, for lack of display of proper sign boards, selling of gutka, selling of tobacco to children below 18 and other violations of the Act.
While South Goa has already formed squads and begun conducting raids, the North Goa squads are still finding their feet. Each squad consists of a joint mamlatdar, a police sub-inspector, one sanitation inspector and an NGO representative.
Speaking at the training session of the enforcement squads held at the Secretariat, North Goa Collector Mihir Vardhan stressed on the importance of education and enforcement.
“While the ‘E’ for ‘Education’ is a very important tool in creating awareness of harmful effects of tobacco, it alone will not work. The other imp ‘E’ is ‘Enforcement’ and it is up to all of us to enforce the law. It is a very powerful tool, and if we do not use it, it is of no use,” Vardhan said.
He urged all members of the enforcement squads to go about their task with conviction, so that a smoke-free Goa can be a reality very soon.
Both the Collectorates have been encouraged to carry out several activities in the past few months on the tobacco control front. Goa currently has three legislations the Goa Public Health Act, COTPA and The Goa Prohibition of Smoking and Spitting Act, 1997.
Director of Food and Drugs Administration, Dr Salim Veljee, expressed happiness that the government machinery now has an additional arm to enforce the law and make Goa smoke free. He pledged complete assistance to the squads from FDA.
During the training workshop, the members of the enforcement squads, numbering 80, were given an overview of the important sections of COTPA, the nuances of the law, the possible problems that could be faced by the squads, what to do in case people resist or try to run away and the various violations.
The workshop was organised by the Voluntary Health Association of Goa. [H]