Vivek Oberoi, face of tobacco-free drive for cops, was booked for smoking

May 23, 2015, 15:00 IST | Vinay Dalvi

Brand ambassador of the 'Tobacco-Free Mumbai Police' campaign launched to discourage tobacco consumption among policemen was booked for smoking a hookah in 2012

Mumbai Police embarked upon an admirable campaign yesterday to free their policemen from the clutches of the addiction of tobacco. The ‘Tobacco-Free Mumbai Police’ campaign kicked off yesterday, with actor Vivek Oberoi as its brand ambassadors. Ironically, Oberoi himself was booked in 2012 for smoking in a public place.

The campaign is a much-needed one since 14 policemen lost their lives due to cancer last year and chewing tobacco is a habit prevalent among many cops and is seen as the leading cause of the deadly ailment. The drive seeks to motivate policemen to let go of the habit by ranking police stations as ‘Tobacco-free police stations’ and also including a component of it in their grading, along with the work profile.

Vivek Oberoi and Raveena Tandon inaugurated the ‘Tobacco-free Mumbai Police’ campaign yesterday. Oberoi, who was booked for smoking in a public place in March 2012, is the face of the drive. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
Vivek Oberoi and Raveena Tandon inaugurated the ‘Tobacco-free Mumbai Police’ campaign yesterday. Oberoi, who was booked for smoking in a public place in March 2012, is the face of the drive. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

Kicking the tobacco would reflect positively in their grades. When police were asked how they would ascertain if the cop had actually overcome his addiction, officials said it would show in the quality of work. An initiative supported by the Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA), Oberoi, along with actress Raveena Tandon, inaugurated the campaign yesterday.

However, Oberoi, who is also the ambassador of the anti-smoking initiative by the World Health Organisation (WHO), was caught smoking a shisha in March 2012, at Mabrook, a restaurant in Sahara Star, the five-star hotel at Vile Parle. Shisha is a blend of molasses, fruits, and tobacco.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Vasant Dhoble, who had earned the title of anti-nightlife crusader due to his raids on bars and restaurants during his stint at the Social Service (SS) branch, had booked the 'Saathiya' actor under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003.

Recalling his raid, Dhoble, who is now posted with the Missing Persons Bureau, told mid-day, “The actor then wanted to escape and told me that if he was caught, it could spoil his image. But I told him that if he tried to escape, he would have to be stopped forcefully. After which, Oberoi sat with the other patrons and was booked for smoking in a public place. I later handed him over to the Airport police station.” mid-day tried contacting Atul Kulkarni, joint commissioner of police, Mumbai Police, for his comments on why Oberoi was chosen as the face of the campaign despite his being booked once for smoking in a public place. At the time of going to press, he was yet unavailable for comment.

Oberoi: Dhoble was doing it for publicity
The actor, however, denied he was ever in such a situation. “I have been working as the brand ambassador of WHO’s anti-smoking movement for the last thirteen years. I have rejected the Red and White Bravery Award that I was offered for my work in helping the victims of the (2004) tsunami, since it is by a cigarette-making company. I’ve rejected several commercials of pan masala brands as they have tobacco in it.

I don’t smoke or drink. I was just sitting with my guests at the restaurant when Dhoble rounded us up for no reason. They (police) started asking our names and addresses. He was doing it all for publicity. I showed him the bill, which had neither hookah nor liquor,” the actor told this paper.

Oberoi further claimed to have helped 2 lakh patients in collaboration with the CPAA and Tata Memorial Hospital. For the cops, he plans to reward them and their respective police stations for tobacco-free days. “Police are under stress and that is why they take to chewing tobacco. We want to help them have tobacco-free days and, slowly, they can get rid of their habits,” added Oberoi.

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