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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Smoking Strictly Prohibited!

Long before the world's largest smoking ban, with a nationwide edict prohibiting smoking in all public places, came into effect in India on October 2, 2008, to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, we have been used to seeing the “Smoking Strictly Prohibited” sign in public buses. The 'strictly' part of the sign was applicable only while the conductor was going from seat to seat to give tickets. Once he completed the round and settled on the front seat to share a smoke with the driver, several of the passengers followed suit to have the pleasure of smoking a cigarette or preferably a 'bidi', the common-man's smoke in the countryside. This was the norm except when the driver or the conductor or a passenger belonged to the Sikh community, who religiously stopped smoking in the bus. So, the smoking ban in the buses was usually enforced by a stray presence of a Sikh in the buses. I wonder how the new countrywide ban will be enforced, especially in the most parts where Sikhs' presence is minimal. Of course, the enforcement agencies like the local police force is there to see the new regulation is rigidly complied with by the public. Wow, what a windfall for them! Another source of income added for the resourceful policeman, may be more lucrative than the long ongoing ones like committing driving offenses or indecent behavior in public places. Anyway, if we can really enforce the smoking ban, like they are already doing in many countries, it will go a long way to ensure better health for the nation. Research shows that bans decrease the overall number of cigarettes people smoke and in some cases, actually result in people quitting.

With smoking ban, India joins the vast majority of countries who have a smoking ban already in force in one form or another. In the 1990s, California became the first state in the U.S. to issue a smoking ban, and this was in restaurants. Since that time, many cities have taken up the drive to ban cigarette smoking in public locations, particularly restaurants. Interestingly, for the first time in the 30-year history of legalized gambling in Atlantic City, gamblers aren't allowed to smoke while playing the slots or table games. The Belmont City Council in California is breaking new ground with a smoking ban in multifamily buildings. In Palo Alto, you have to keep walking if you want to smoke on the side-walks. Less than one year after France imposed a nationwide ban on smoking in most public places (including hospitals, schools and offices), it will extend the ban to bars, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs - and the most cherished of all spaces: the café. Ireland and Italy show that countries with long-standing smoking traditions may introduce bans fairly smoothly, as they did in 2004 and 2005. In Germany, where regulations vary locally, Berlin will join France on Jan. 1 in forbidding smoking in its beloved coffee houses, as well as all other enclosed public spaces. The English smoking ban came into force on 1 July 2007. Smoking is banned in almost all enclosed public spaces, including pubs, restaurants and on public transport.

Banning what could be the world’s biggest addiction or industry is an extreme measure, so extreme positive and negative responses are normal expectations. To present it more pleasantly to people and to generate more favorable results, some countries slowly implement the ban through compromises. The government cannot altogether remove personal freedom. It can only do so much as to prevent non-smokers from suffering the ill effects of actions they did not commit. A ban on smoking in public places, or other alternative measure, might just enhance one’s awareness of the rights of other people, or improve the use of one’s freedom. It might be far-fetched to imagine smoking becoming obsolete in India, a country where 'bidi' smoking is a countrywide culture. But the smoking ban does seem to signal a cultural shift toward a more wholesome, modern and adaptable image.

Before concluding, a breaking news for smokers. The new E.cig smokes like a real cigarette and users get a shot of nicotine every time they inhale. The device even produces a cloud of water vapor with every puff, though causes no harm to non-smokers nearby. "While we are completely supportive of the smoking ban, we are still very conscious of the needs of our smoking customers”, says the selling company in U.K.


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