BENGALURU, JULY 16, 2021: Restaurants and hotels that do not permit smoking are attracting more customers and business. Going completely smoke-free is improving profits and saving costs for them. The hospitality sector is opting out of allowing smoking in their premises, as their contribution towards safeguarding the health of their employees and customers, especially during the Corona pandemic. Restaurateurs, representatives from hotel & restaurant associations, tourism and health departments of states, doctors and global experts came together on Wednesday for a webinar organised by the National Law School of India University- ‘Smoke-Free Hotels/Restaurants are a Win-Win for health and business’. They concluded that 100 per cent smoke-free establishment is a win-win for customers as well as owners.
“Going 100 percent smoke-free is resulting in good health of customers, staff and increased business,” says Mrs Radha Nair, owner of Café Kaara. The Bangalore based cafe has completely stopped smoking in its premises and since then the restaurant has been witnessing more footfalls of families. “Family customers prefer to dine-in at places which do not allow smoking. Children, women, and senior citizens feel uneasy when exposed to tobacco smoke. We felt that we could use the smoking area to seat more customers rather than wasting this space for an activity unhealthy for our customers and staff.” Encouraged by their booming business, Radha added, “We are hopeful more cafés and restaurants will go 100 percent smoke-free to boost their business.”
There is growing trend in restaurants and hotels to do away with smoking in their premises and become 100 per cent smoke-free. This changing mindset is to attract families with children and senior citizens who prefer to dine in restaurants and reside in hotels which do not allow any smoking in their premises. The establishments are also saving a lot of money that was being used to set up and maintain smoking areas. And they are able to protect their employees and customers from exposure to second hand-smoke.
“We are finding that families prefer restaurants and hotels which do not allow smoking. Many members of our association have voluntarily decided to become 100 percent smoke-free, and we are motivating others to follow. We want Telangana to be the model state in making all restaurants and hotels 100% smoke free. It is the right time for the government to completely ban the smoking areas, thereby making it easy for us to do away with these,’’ said, Mr. M S Nagaraju, Chairman, Hotels and Restaurant Association, Telangana.
In India, smoking is banned in all public places as per the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply and Distribution) Act COTPA 2003. However, smoking is allowed in certain public places like restaurants, hotels, and airports, in Designated Smoking Areas (DSAs). Second-hand smoking is as harmful as smoking. Exposure to the harmful chemicals emitted from second-hand smoke cause many diseases including, lung cancer and heart disease in adults and the impairment of the lung function and respiratory infections in children. People with compromised respiratory and cardiovascular systems are at higher risk for COVID-19 severity and death. DSAs facilitate the spread of COVID -19 infection as smokers cannot socially distance or wear masks and are trapped in proximity in a smoke-filled environment.
“Smokers who develop Covid infection have more complications and greater risk of fatality as virus seems to have more adverse effects for patients with non-communicable diseases. Smoke from tobacco products contain harmful chemicals which can lead to coronary heart disease, stroke and several cancers,” said renowned oncologist and Member of High-Power Committee, Govt of Karnataka, Dr Vishal Rao. “Exposure to passive smoking happens in eateries specifically hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs, risks the lives of thousands of non-smokers by exposing them to the smoke of cigarettes that seeps from smoking areas to common areas. All places should be completely smoke-free in the best interest of the public health, especially in the current times,” he added while urging for removal of provision for Designated Smoking Areas in COTPA 2003 as DSAs defeat the purpose of smoke-free policies.
A study was recently conducted in 8 Indian cities by the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, to assess the prevalence of DSAs in hospitality venues and their compliance with some of the physical requirements for DSAs as per COTPA 2003 specifications. 3243 venues (including 836 bars, 971 hotels, and 1436 restaurants) were surveyed in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Guwahati, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, and Mumbai. Only 120 of these venues had DSAs with just 3% of these DSAs in compliant across all mandated specifications; over 58% venues with DSAs did not meet the design standards; and 92% of DSAs did not display the compliant smoking area signage.
At least 66 countries ban smoking in indoor public places with no exceptions for DSAs – Brazil, Canada, Guyana, Pakistan, Suriname, Uganda, and United Kingdom are notable examples. Smoke-free policies have a positive economic impact on business and do not cause adverse economic outcomes from business, including restaurants and bars. Pre- and post-implementation data from hospitality venues in the US, Mexico City, Ireland, Norway, Argentina, Cyprus, Hungary, and others all showed no negative economic impacts after going 100% smoke-free.
India has the second-largest number of tobacco users (268 million or 28.6% of all adults in India) in the world – of these at least 1.2 million die every year from tobacco-related diseases. One million deaths are due to smoking, with over 200,000 due to second-hand smoke exposure, and over 350,000 are due to smokeless tobacco use. Nearly 27% of all cancers in India are due to tobacco usage. The total annual economic cost from all diseases and deaths attributable to tobacco use (among 35+ years) was a staggering Rupees 177,341 crore which is nearly 1.04% of India’s GDP. Tobacco use in all forms, whether smoking or chewing, is associated with severe COVID-19 casualties as per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Indian Council of Medical Research.