Kottayam: Kottayam in Kerala is one district which is ahead of even the Union Health Ministry in the fight against tobacco. Kottayam was declared a tobacco-free district on September 28, three days before the ban on public smoking was imposed across the country. DMO of Kottayam Benjamin George said, “It is a combined effort by the district administration and voluntary organisations. For the past one year we have conducted seminars and street programmes in different places like hotels, restaurants, bars and taxi stands in Kottayam to spread awareness.” . The drive started with the district administration issuing orders to all public and private offices to stop people from smoking in public. This drive was supplemented by a poster campaign and a helpline that was set up for receiving complaints. Executive officer of Kerala Voluntary Health Services Saju Itti said, “In Kerala till recently we had only minimal programmes against tobacco. Now we can proudly say this will be a sustained effort.” Meanwhile, Jacob Kurien, a bar owner said, “Present situation is excellent. We have made the bar a non-smoking area and the result has been good so far.” But many in the rural areas would admit that they do smoke in public, out of sight of the anti-tobacco police.