Bengaluru was honoured with the 2023 Partnership for Healthy Cities Award. Its anti-tobacco effort has been appreciated globally
Bengaluru is among five global cities that have been recognised for achievements in preventing injuries and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by a leading global initiative supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The Indian tech city’s efforts in tobacco-control won it a project worth $150,000.
A statement from the WHO said that Bengaluru was honored with the 2023 Partnership for Healthy Cities Award along with Montevideo in Uruguay, Mexico City, Mexico, Vancouver, Canada, and Athens, Greece, at the first Healthy Cities Summit held in London on Wednesday, 15 March.
“The five cities being recognised today demonstrate that mayors can drive powerful progress to protect the health of their citizens,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The cities were recognised for positively impacting the health of their populations and making sustainable and lasting strides toward preventing injuries and NCDs that can be replicated in other jurisdictions.
The Karnataka capital was awarded for its “efforts in tobacco control, specifically, reducing smoking in public places and improving compliance with existing mandates on public smoking bans”, a statement said.
The summit brought together mayors and officials from more than 50 major cities to discuss urgent public health concerns and best practices that save lives and create healthier cities, it added.
Ensuring the health and well-being of residents in the world’s urban centres is crucial, with the majority of the global population now living in urban settings.
Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has, since 2017, been striving towards achieving a ‘Smoke Free Bengaluru’ as part of this partnership initiative.
Speaking to South First after receiving the project award at the summit, Dr KV Thrilok Chandra, special commissioner for health at BBMP said: “Bengaluru’s continuous effort towards keep the city smoke-free has been appreciated. The BBMP has ensured there were several bold steps taken to keep tobacco-use under control.”
Several efforts were recognised by the WHO for the project award.
Dr Vishal Rao, head and neck oncologist at the HCG Cancer Care and Research Centre, who is a member of State Anti-Tobacco Cell, told South First that the city corporation’s effort was commended at the summit.
“It is very prestigious for the state to be commended on a global platform. This is the time for the country to show that we are on par with other countries at the global level and that our commitment and efforts are commendable,” he said.
Dr Rao said that when the partnership began in 2017, “we first began by creating an NCD Task Force”.
“Under this, we ensured that there were several initatives taken — from coordination of enforcement agencies like police, Health Department and BBMP together to ensure tobacco control is enforced and implemented.”
These efforts, along with media campaigns, signages, and citizens’ responses were all taken into consideration and were scored.
In this Bengaluru’s BBMP effort won the award for the best practices in smoke-free tobacco control policy at the Partnership for Healthy Cities Summit.
BBMP has conducted several awareness programmes, including student-volunteer programmes, to create awareness on tobacco-use and the dangers it causes to one’s health.
Signage boards have been put up in public places and have been much appreciated by citizens.
“Campaigns, and signages warning people on how smoking can lead to various cancers not only to the smokers themselves but also to family members, colleagues, pets, friends, too, was rigorously done,” explained S Prabhakar, a member of the State Anti-Tobacco Cell
“Second-hand smoke impacts in terms of other diseases — this was also discussed on regular basis in these campaigns as part of the partnership of healthy cities,” he added.
BBMP’s Dr Thrilok also explained that to ensure the campaigns were well received, several bold steps were taken.
For instance, the state government made it a rule that no tobacco products could be sold without trade licenses. If they did, a hefty fine had to be paid.
This was applicable to even small roadside vendors and tea shops that are found all across the city.
Also, those smoking in public places were fined severely.
Elaborating on this, Prabhakar said: “We took the help of the police department and enforcement drives to check smoking in public zones.”
Removing of smoking zones that were not complying with Section 4 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 played a major role.
“We noticed that there were several hotels and establishments whose ‘Designated Smoking Areas’ did not follow the norms. We ensured that these zones are removed completely,” explained an officer.
The BBMP will continue with this project for the next two years and intends to make Bengaluru a smoke-free city.
The summit highlighted “best practices and proven interventions, which is especially important as public health is at risk of becoming less of a priority three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic”, according to the statement.
The first-of-its-kind summit was convened in London by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the WHO, Vital Strategies, and Mayor Sadiq Khan of London.
Founded in 2017, the Partnership for Healthy Cities is a global network comprising 70 cities working together to prevent NCDs and injuries.
Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, in partnership with the WHO and Vital Strategies, the initiative enables cities worldwide to deliver a high-impact policy or programmatic intervention to reduce NCDs and injuries in their communities.