Ditch the cancer stick if you are in Jharkhand for sightseeing, staying at government accommodations and eating at state-run restaurants.

The tourism department has issued a notification, banning tobacco in any form at all attractions, guest houses, hotels, motels and eateries with immediate effect.

The notification, signed by tourism secretary Manish Ranjan on Tuesday, directs installation of signboards at all tourist sites within 10 days and warns of penal action if the no-tobacco rule is violated at any facility run by Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC).

"Consumption of tobacco leads to many diseases that kill around 10-12 lakh people every year," the notification read, adding that tourists should be made aware of the ill effects of tobacco.

The warning signs are also expected to display the names, designations and mobile numbers of officers who are authorised to prosecute offenders. Paryatan mitras or even visitors can inform about violations at these numbers.

The notification mentions certain sections of the Indian Penal Code that specify provisions of a jail term of six months or a fine of Rs 200. Tourism officials have been directed to collect from district nodal officers (tobacco control) challan booklets for further action.

According to present anti-tobacco laws in India, smoking in public places is banned all over the country since October 2, 2008. The minimum age for buying tobacco products is 18 years while the penalty for smoking in public places is Rs 200.

Secretary Ranjan said while cigarettes were among top causes of cancer, gutkha and similar tobacco products also facilitated a host of diseases, both directly and indirectly.

"Spitting khaini (tobacco leaves) or gutkha (sweetened tobacco mix) can lead to various microbial infections among people who do not use tobacco themselves," he observed, adding that such obnoxious habits were the arch-enemy of hygiene and sanitation.

Deepak Mishra, executive director of Socio-economic and Educational Development Society (SEEDS), the implementing agency of the government's tobacco control programme, welcomed the move. "This (the notification banning consumption of tobacco in tourist places) will go a long way in making our anti-tobacco campaign effective," he said.

The JTDC runs more than 20 properties across the state. Won't business be hit with all of them being made tobacco-free zones?

"That is subject to assessment at a later stage. The government is currently more interested in protecting the health of its people and visitors," said JTDC general manager Rajiv Ranjan.  

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