In a first, the Election Commission has banned all kinds of tobacco in polling booths during next year's general elections, a bid to effectively implement tobacco control laws in the country.
The Commission has asked all states and UTs to issue instructions to district electoral officers-cum-district magistrates to ensure prohibition of not just smoking, but also the use of chewable tobacco in all polling booths.
"All the polling booths in country to be declared tobacco free and not just smoke free so use of bidi, cigarette, gutkha, scented/ flavoured chewable tobacco are prohibited in all polling booth," read the guidelines.
As per the guidelines, each polling booth will have a banner put up, saying the same.
The presiding officer of each polling booth will be nominated as nodal officer for ensuring tobacco-free status at their booths.
All district tobacco control cells will supervise and monitor this campaign to sensitise people on ill effects of tobacco.
The move comes after Delhi government's Health Department approached the Commission seeking declaration of all polling stations as tobacco-free zones rather than just declaring them as smoke-free as it used to be in previous elections.
In a letter, Additional Director (Health) Dr S K Arora had stated that tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease, disability and pre-mature death and major threat to the present and future health of any population.
"On election day, majority of adult population of our country is likely to visit polling booth to caste its vote. This will be an excellent opportunity to sensitise among majority adult population on a single day through displayed multi-colour banners with message on ill-effects of tobacco at polling booth," he had said.
The decision should be taken in larger public health interest, he stressed.
He has thanked the Commission for the move.