India was among the first countries to sign and ratify the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) of the World Health Organization in 2003. The major provisions of this law, notably those pertaining to smoke-free public areas, however remained mostly ineffective, due to a very uncertain enforcement mechanisms and low awareness and acceptance from key stakeholders of the laws.
Prof. Surendra Shastri (Chair, Department of Preventive Oncology at Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai, India and Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Cancer Prevention, Screening and Early Detection), through a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2009, set up the Smoke-free Mumbai Campaign, with technical assistance from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Washington DC, for the enforcement of smokefree laws in Mumbai. Partners included the Mumbai Police Force, the Municipal Corporation, the Tata Memorial Hospital (Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi and Team SFM) and non-profit organizations – the Salaam Bombay Foundation(Ms.Padmini Somani), Healis Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health(Dr. Prakash Gupta), V-Care, and Americares.
Mumbai, the commercial capital of India, with an estimated population over 20.5 million is amongst the most populated cities in the world. It has over 8000 restaurants and bars and 300 bars that exclusively serve country liquor. Additionally, 4.5 million people in Mumbai commute daily in 4675 Buses and another 0.2 million use 58,000 Taxis, collectively making buses and taxis the largest public spaces in the city.
The campaign, which ran from March 2009-December 2012 educated and enlisted the support of restaurant owners, transport associations, enforcement agencies and key civil society organizations to bring about appropriate changes in the laws governing restaurant and taxi licenses,particularly towards stricter enforcement, and increased stakeholder awareness and commitment, thus ensuring compliance with indoor smokefree laws. The campaign resulted in an over 90% compliance with smokefree laws in restaurants and public transport in Mumbai.
The campaign is now self-sustained and taken over by the Mumbai Municipal Corporation. The creative strategies that led to the landmark outcomes has now become a model for several other cities in India. Issuing orders on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), the Honourable Mumbai High Court directed the State Government to ensure enforcement of smokefree laws all over the state, on the same pattern as the Smokefree Mumbai Campaign.