smoking on

In this article, Sachin Vats of Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab discusses the punishment for smoking on roads or other public places.

Is smoking on open roads or other public places legal in India?

Smoking is the habit or action of inhaling and exhaling the smoke of tobacco or a drug. The rate of increase in disease and death due to active smoking is on rise. But, apart from this people who do not smoke are suffering with the ill effects of smoking in passive way. The inhalation of Secondhand Smoke (SHS) or Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) by the persons causes “Passive Smoking” which is equally injurious to health. The rise in air pollution is a major concern for the global world. The world is fighting with the problems like smoking and drug related issues.

Passive Smoking is one of the major motivation behind making of smoke free laws. Why should a person other than the intended active smoker face any problem? The passive smoking also causes dangerous diseases like cancer, permanent disability and even leads to death. So, the people who smoke should think about its consequences on other people. The Constitution of India has provided to the people six fundamental and various other Rights. People always raise their voice if any of their rights get violated. But, do we really care about our fundamental duties that we must do as a citizen of India? The Article 51A Part IV  of the Constitution of India states different fundamental duties incorporated under 42nd Amendment in 1976. The 86th amendment done in 2002 provides 11 fundamental duties to be done by every citizen of India. I am discussing about fundamental duties of our citizen because even after having legislation for different purposes it depends upon us to make it successful.

“Section 4 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) describes about Prohibition of Smoking at Public Places which is applicable from 2nd October, 2008”

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“India became a party to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on February 27, 2005.”

What is Public Place

Public Place is defined as any place where public has access. It does not matter that the place is right or not. It includes all the places visited by the public such as auditorium, hospital, railway stations, public offices, courts, educational institutions, libraries, canteens, banks, clubs. It also includes the open spaces such as premise of the hotels and restaurants.

Instructions for the Public Places

The public places must display a sign of “No Smoking” on a board. The size of the board should be 60 cm in length and 30 cm in width. The background of the board must be white in colour and all the other specifications must be followed. The board must display a warning “No Smoking Area- Smoking here is an offence”. The warning should be given in English language and one Indian language according to the respective location. The board must be displayed at the entrance of the public place and other prominent places of the building. If the public place has more than one gate then the board will be displayed on each entrance gate. The public building consisting of different floors will contain the display board on all the floors including at the staircase and lifts.

The name of a designated officer must be notified and displayed on the board to whom the complaint will be made if someone is violating the law by smoking at public place. The keepers of the public place must ensure that no ashtrays, matches, lighters or any other thing which can facilitate smoking are provided at the public place.

Judgment in Murli S. Deora v. Union of India

The harmful and dangerous effects of smoking in public was recognized by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the year 2001 during the case of Murli S. Deora v. Union of India. The ill effects of passive smoking and absence of any statutory provision regarding this problem was also recognised by the Supreme Court in this case.

The Supreme Court in its decision banned smoking in public places like auditoriums, hospital buildings, public offices, railways, court buildings, libraries, educational institutions, health institutions and other place of public use.

Public Places with separate Smoking Area

There cannot be any smoking place in public places as all the public places have to be smoke-free. But, there are some provisions under which a smoking area can be provided by the owners, proprietors, manager, supervisor or the person in-charge of affairs at places like hotels and restaurants. The hotel must contain more than 30 or rooms and the restaurant should have seating capacity of 30 or more than 30 people. The service of smoking area at any airport can also be provided to the passengers by the manager of the airport but some specific guidelines for that have to be followed.

Guidelines for Smoking Area

The smoking area made at any public place must be used only for the purpose of the smoking. The area cannot be used for providing any other services to the customers. The smoking area cannot be made at any entrance or exit gate of the hotel, restaurant and airport. The area made for smoking must be distinctly marked and a board displaying “Smoking Area” in English and any one Indian language as applicable must be there at the entrance gate.

The area made for the smoking must be fully four-walled and separated from the main building. The entrance gate must have automatically closing doors and the building should have a good airflow system which directs air towards outside and it must not mix with any other buildings nearby. The building should have an exhaust ventilating system and air cleaning system. They should be installed in such a manner that air should not permeate into the non-smoking areas of the building.  

Violation of Section 4 of the COTPA (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act)

The Public Places without the signage of the board of “No Smoking” is considered as violation under under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act. The public place should not provide the people ashtrays, lighters, matches and other things to promote or facilitate smoking activities. If any smoking area is found on the entrance or exit gate of the public place then the designated officer or the supervisor of the place will be held liable for the violation of the COTPA under section 4. If the manager provide any service in the smoking area other than smoking then it will be violation of section 4. The improper air flow system in the smoking room makes the concerned person liable under this Act. If smoking is done at any public place other than the hotel and restaurants consisting more than 30 rooms and seating capacity respectively then then it will be violation under this section. The name of Designated Officer must be displayed at different positions at public places to whom any complaint can be registered.

Punishment Under COTPA

All the offences which are Punishable under COPTA are bailable. The cases are tried in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The wrong done under this COTPA is taken as Compoundable and tried according to the provisions of the summary trials.

There is a provision for the Fine of Rs. 200 if anyone is found smoking at public places. The Government has put up an Amendment Bill in the Parliament where it has been raised  upto  Rs. 1000. It has also been decided by the Health Ministry that the minimum age for buying tobacco related products is 21 which was earlier 18 and the same has been incorporated in the amendment bill.


Public smoking was made illegal in the history of world first by a Division Bench of Kerala High Court in 1991. The High Court stated that smoking at public places violates the Article 21 of the Constitution and hence unconstitutional. The first city in India to become smoke free was Chandigarh and the man behind the success of Chandigarh was Hemant Goswami. Other cities such as Shimla also followed the Chandigarh model to become smoke free city.

According to a report published by the medical journal “The Lancet” around 11% death in the world are caused due to smoking. The majority of people are dying out of smoking belong to China, India, Russia and USA. The report of the Global Burden of Disease Survey shows that India has around 11.2% smokers in the world. Smoking is the second largest reason for early death and disability so it is a major point of concern for all the countries across the globe.

The demand of removal of designated smoking zones from hotels, restaurants and airports is also on rise and the recommendation has been accepted by the government. The Indian women rank second in the global list of top countries having women smokers.


Health Department Website (Government of India).

Cigarettes and other Tobacco Related Act.

World Health Organisation Website.

Medical Journal- “The Lancet”.


  1. Good post which elaborates the importance of the danger signs. Danger signs should not be taken lightly as it can be life saving in workplaces. We deal in safety signs and we know the importance of these signs. Good post and was helpful in increasing our knowledge about these signs. Thank you.

  2. Roads are public places. Wherever public has access is a public place. Not only mentioned places. If a individual owns a house still it is a public place as you release cigarette smoke which comes outside your house and harms public. In some countries peoples are fined just due to cigarette smoke entered others apartment and residence. Some people’s had asked why they are fined while smoking in the road. The cause is you don’t have right to transmit deseas as others moving inhales what you release. Not from your apartment or house as other public inhales your release including your family members. You don’t have right to transmit deseas to your family members if they depends on you or your income. Who else in this world don’t know that road is a public place.

  3. As per section 2 (l) of COTPA Act 2003, Public place does not include open spaces so it can be understood as it is not prohibited to smoke on streets.

  4. A few years ago, I was smoking in a street in Bangalore. A cop came to me and politely told me not to smoke there. I wonder if the open roads fall under the umbrage of Public Places. Please someone can clear the doubt.

    • You are a public in the road as well as I. As I don’t have right to hurt you or others, you also don’t have right to hurt others and I believe any individual has no right to hurt even self. Roads are by default public place.

  5. I was smoking on a foot path after 10.30 pm in the night there was no one there, i had just had my dinner, i was also new to the place as i work abroad. the police jeep just stops and 2 constable come and catch me and take me to the police officer and he puts me a fine of Rs. 200. Does the law applies at night also, Does police officer don’t have work then catch people who are smoking at midnight. The indian law must be specific of time and place. there was no smoking sign

  6. reference:
    Public Place
    Kindly advise whether a court is a public place. (not related to the smoking issue).
    If yes, can you kindly provide references (law, decided case)

  7. Each law is deliberately made in such a manner so it can be twisted as per convinience of the culprit. Not very specific straight forward and misleading. So that the culprits have no fear. Therefore we can observe that even there is a law the number of crimes is on increasing scale instead of controlling it or decrease in numbers.

  8. There are no restrictions on smoking in parking spaces, open market places, roads and parks.
    Public Places Where Smoking is Banned are
    Hospitals, Amusement Centre, Public Offices, Court Buildings, Schools, Colleges, Libraries, Public Conveyance, Railway Stations, Bus Stops, Shopping Malls, Cinema Halls, etc.

    There are designated smoking zones in hotels, restaurants, pubs, airport lounges, etc.

  9. Is the open area outside a market which also hosts a paan shop a no smoking area under COPTA?
    Can a person be challaned for smoking in the open area outside a paan shop in the market square?

  10. What a pathetic article, which does not even answer the question posed in the title. After reading it, I still don’t know whether it is allowed or not to smoke on “open roads”.

    • The Supreme Court in its decision of case “Murli S. Deora v. Union of India” banned smoking in public places like auditoriums, hospital buildings, public offices, railways, court buildings, libraries, educational institutions, health institutions and other place of public use.

      It has been clearly stated in the article.

      • still doesnt answer the question ..
        The question is very practical and extremely SPECIFIC ..
        are pavements and roads “public space” .. yes or no .. can I stand on a pavement which is not “auditoriums, hospital buildings, public offices, railways, court buildings, libraries, educational institutions, health institutions and other place of public use” …
        Only the last one, other places of public use is way too generic ..

        any one has specific answer ?

        • Bhutan, a small Himalayan nation often called the Land of the Thunder Dragon, is the only country in the world that completely bans the sale and production of tobacco and tobacco products. Under the law, any individual found selling tobacco can face imprisonment for a period of three to five years


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