Taking cue from European cities where smoking in public places is banned, the Delhi government is taking steps to make the capital smokefree by 2009.

"The smokefree city will mean that the ban on smoking in public places such as offices, public transport, shops, hotels and restaurants will be enforced stringently," according to the Health Minister Yoganand Shastri.

He said an intensive education campaign will be launched to educate the people about the ill-effects of smoking and the dangers of secondhand smoke."

"We are also working out a proposal to make counselling and tobacco cessation service available in selected hospitals in Delhi for those who want to give up smoking," the minister said.

He added, "Smoking is responsible for more than one million deaths each year in India. Fifty per cent of the cancer deaths, cardiovascular disease, respiratory and lung disorders and other related diseases are due to tobacco consumption."

The minister was also concerned at the growing popularity of smoking among the youth.

He added that a smokefree environment was the only effective strategy to protect the health of non-smokers.

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