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In a first in the country, the Delhi State Election Commission has declared all the 13,234 polling booths 'tobacco free' ahead of the MCD polls, to be held this Sunday. The move comes after Delhi government's Health Department approached the State Election Commissioner urging him to declare all the polling stations as 'tobacco free zones' rather than just declaring them as 'smoke-free' as it used to be in earlier elections. In a letter to Commissioner S K Srivastava, Additional Director (Health) Dr S K Arora noted that since chew-able tobacco, a leading cause of oral cancer, is already banned in Delhi, the polling booths should be declared 'tobacco free'. The decision should be taken in larger public health interest, he stressed. The Commission has now sought cooperation of the Commissioners of all three civic bodies - South, North and East municipal corporation -- to create 'tobacco free' poll booths for the MCD polls and display multi-colour banners at each location indicating the same. "It is an excellent opportunity to sensitise nearly 1.33 crore adults on a single day as they will come to cast their vote at the polling booths," Dr Arora said. He said 90 per cent of oral cancers, 40 per cent of all cancers and 30 per cent of tuberculosis cases occur because of tobacco habits. Also, 20 per cent cases of diabetes, hypertension, heart attack and brain stroke are also linked to tobacco consumption, he added. The Health department will also provide signages/banners to be displayed at the entry gate of each polling booth. The banners will have content to educate people about the ill effects of tobacco consumption including smoking. The objective is also to make public aware that polling booths being a public place, the use and sale of all kinds of tobacco is prohibited, he said. Besides, teams of health departments will also supervise and monitor to ensure that there are no violations of the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) 2003. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the Election Commission had asked the state election authorities to implement the no- smoke policy in accordance with the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003.
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