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Bengaluru cancer survivors ask Modi to ban smoking, spitting in public

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By NS Desk 22-Jun-2021

Bengaluru, June 22 (IANS) About 12 cancer survivors from Bengaluru on Tuesday made an appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yediyurappa to take steps to impose a ban on tobacco sales, smoking, and spitting in public places which would help mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in the anticipated third wave and future waves.

Besides appealing to Modi and Yediyurappa, these survivors have also sent copies of the letter to Union Health Minister Harsha Vardhan, Karnataka health minister, K. Sudhakar and Deputy chief minister, C. N. Ashwath Narayan, who is also the chairman of the Karnataka Covid Task Force.

Citing the findings of the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer survivors from the city in their letter dated June 22, said that smokers are at a high risk of developing severe complications when infected with the Covid-19 virus.

"Smokers are at a greater risk for hospital admission, need for ventilators, ICUs, and even death due to Covid-19. While chewing tobacco products increases saliva production and when the user spits it out, he/she spreads germs and viruses. Therefore, it is in the larger interest of the society that governments take stringent measures to ban sale of tobacco and its allied products," Nalini Satyanarayana,a cancer survivor and health activist, noted.

She added that people who are nearby could inhale it (smoke) or touch the contaminated surface, getting infected and leading to the spread of the virus.

The letter by these survivors asked both the state and Union governments to ban smoking at hotels, airports, pubs and hookah bars to prevent the spread of the virus.

"The governments must take steps to introduce vendor licensing to reduce accessibility of tobacco and its allied products. Besides this, the governments must also effectively implement a ban on public spitting, which will help in reducing the spread of deadly virus now and in future too," the survivors said in their letter.

Meanwhile, oncologist Dr Vishal Rao, who is also a member of Karnataka's High Power Committee on Tobacco Control, highlighted that Covid-appropriate behaviour like wearing masks and social distancing cannot be followed in designated smoking areas (DSAs).

"The current provisions of the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) allows smoking in DSAs at restaurants, pubs, bars, and airports and these DSA are often very congested places where droplets can survive in such closed chambers with them having a possibility to become super-spreaders of Covid-19," he argued.

The Consortium for Tobacco Free Karnataka's honorary advisor, Vijayalakshmi Balekundri, said the state should enforce the ban on spitting in public places, which is already imposed, by slapping fines on the violators.

"As the state is gradually unlocking, it is the right time for the government to consider banning DSAs and to amend COTPA," she said.

--IANS

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