The Lok Sabha has passed the Bill banning e-cigarettes. Cutting across party lines, members of the Lower House of the Parliament on November 26 supported the Bill to ban the production, import and sale of electronic cigarettes though the Congress questioned the government’s decision to adopt the ordinance route for the legislation.
The Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, was aimed at replacing an ordinance issued on September 18. The Bill was moved for consideration and passage by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.
Moving a statutory resolution objecting to promulgation of the ordinance, Congress member Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said he has no fundamental objection to the contents of the bill but was against the adoption of ordinance route by the government for a subject which was not of urgent importance. “The ordinance-addicted government,” he said, “cannot convey any strong message to the people.”
He asked what the urgency was to come out with an ordinance at a time when 16 states have already banned e-cigarettes. Observing that one million people die because of consuming tobacco products, Chowdhury said the government needs to thoroughly discuss issues concerning both conventional cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
Participating in the discussion, Varun Gandhi (BJP) defended the ordinance saying “prevention is always better than cure”. He also dismissed the reports which suggest that e-cigarettes were less harmful than conventional cigarettes saying nicotine is harmful for health and any suggestion to the contrary, as pointed out by some research reports, was unacceptable.
Gandhi further said that introduction of e-cigarettes in the US has brought down the average smoking age to 17 years from 30 years which was alarming.
The Bill makes the manufacturing, production, import, export, distribution, transport, sale, storage or advertisements of such alternative smoking devices a cognisable offence, attracting a jail term and a fine. First-time violators will face a jail term of up to one year and a fine of Rs 1 lakh. For subsequent offences, a jail term of up to three years or a fine of Rs 5 lakh, or both, will be imposed, according to the ordinance.
The storage of e-cigarettes shall also be punishable with imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to 50,000, or both, it said. The bill authorised officials to conduct searches in premises, stating that where such searches were not permissible authorities might attach properties, stocks of e-cigarettes or records maintained by the manufacturer, producer exporter, transporter, importer, stockist against whom a complaint had been made.
It said the owner or occupier of the place that stocks e-cigarettes should voluntarily prepare a list of such stock in his possession and without delay submit the stock to the nearest authorised officer.
However, trade bodies promoting e-cigarettes, users and other stakeholders have been opposing the government’s move to ban the alternative smoking device, alleging that it was a draconian step taken in haste to protect the conventional cigarette industry.
Participating in the debate over the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage, Advertisement) Bill, 2019, lawmakers from the Congress, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) targeted the government for safeguarding the business of private Indian Industries, involved in production of other tobacco products.
The Janata Dal (United), a BJP alliance partner, also demanded that the government ban other tobacco products as well as alcohol along with banning e-cigarettes, which are battery-operated e-devices that heat a substance (natural or artificial) to create vapour for inhalation.
E-cigarettes may contain nicotine and flavours, and include all forms of electronic nicotine delivery systems, heat-not-burn products, and e-hookahs.
Stating that only three per cent Indians use e-cigarettes, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (Congress) said action should also be taken against producers of other tobacco products.
Saugata Roy (TMC) said the government was only taking action against the fringe of the problem. There were many tobacco products, more dangerous for health, he added.
He said the government had brought the Bill, which concerned a miniscule population and 99.98 per cent people had been left out. The Bill didn’’t touch people who smoked cigarettes or consumed gutkha or chewing tobacco, he added.
Ritesh Pandey (BSP) asked why the government was not taking steps to ban other tobacco products as well. “You (Centre) are being biased to certain lobbies. This is sad. The government should look towards banning other tobacco products too,” he said.
Imtiyaz Jaleel (AIMIM) said his party supported steps to stop consumption of tobacco products, but noted only banning products or making laws were not enough. “Harsh steps should also be taken to implement rules,” he said.
Varun Gandhi (BJP) defended the ordinance earlier promulgated by the Centre saying “prevention is always better than cure”. He also dismissed the reports that suggested e-cigarettes were less harmful than conventional cigarettes. Gandhi said introduction of e-cigarettes in the US had brought down the average smoking age to 17 years from 30 years, which was alarming.
Mahabali Singh (JD-U) said the government should not only ban e-cigarette but also all tobacco products as well as alcohol like Bihar. On September 18, the Centre promulgated the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage, Advertisement) Ordinance that prohibited manufacture, trade and advertisement of e-cigarettes in India.
What is e-cigarette?
E-cigarettes are the most common form of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). These are basically devices that do not burn or use tobacco leaves. Instead, they vaporise a solution using a battery. This vapour is then inhaled by the user.
“The main constituents of the solution, in addition to nicotine when nicotine is present, are propylene glycol, with or without glycerol and flavouring agents,” the World Health Organisation says, adding that these solutions and emissions also contain some solutions that are considered to be “toxicants”.
In terms of shape and size, most e-cigarettes resemble ordinary cigarettes, cigars and smoking pipes, but of late brands have started experimenting with newer designs that may resemble whistles, pens etc.