Lok Sabha passes a bill to ban e-cigarettes

-Kosha Doshi

Background-

   3 per cent of the total Indian population uses e-cigarettes causing around a million deaths. A media report brought into light that $ 1.9 lakh was approximately spent on import of e-cigarettes. Around 30 countries worldwide have banned e-cigarettes with 98 more trying to regulate e-cigarettes in their manner. The seriousness of the issue came forth when the US statistics for average smoking age was reduced from 30 to 17 years. 

   E-Cigarettes are devices which heat a substance with or without nicotine bringing about aerosol for inhalation and giving the action of conventional smoking. A few of the e-cigarette devices include an electronic nicotine delivery system, hot not burn products and e- hookahs. E-Cigarettes have proved to be hazardous and an issue of public health affecting humans by causing DNA damage; cellular, molecular, neurological, respiratory disorder; lung cancer; cardiovascular disease and other illnesses associated with conventional smoking. In a few cases has led to damage to Fetal development and pregnancy complications.

Current Issue-

   India being a signatory to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, 2003 it was obligatory on India’s part to consider the prohibition of e-cigarettes. As in 2014, WHO had put an obligation on its signatory states to consider banning e-cigarettes. The Indian Council of Medical Research had also recommended the ban of e-cigarettes.  

    On Wednesday, 27th of November, 2019; a bill was introduced by the Union Health Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan. The bill passed was a ban on e-cigarettes in the following manners: production, importing, exporting, transport, manufacture, sale, distribution, storage or advertisement. The prohibition widens its scope to devices similar to e-cigarettes tagging it as a cognizable offence. The following bill introduction is the replacement to the ordinance brought forth by the Centre on 18th September 2019.

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    The discussion that took place amongst the members on the ban included the topic of completely banning tobacco for health purposes. BSP MP Ritesh Pandey further commented that it would benefit the farmers and provide them relief as they were forced by the Tobacco Board to plant expensive crops. A thought came about to ban tobacco completely eradicating the problem from its root but a counter-argument revelled they were not ready thereby defending the “Tobacco Lobby”. An opinion to not ban the export of e-cigarettes came forth keeping in mind the foreign exchange and employment opportunities. INC MP Adhir Ranjan Chodhuary brought up a fact regarding the increasing trends of e-cigarettes among children and women.

   The youth of India was becoming a victim to the aesthetic trend brought about causing a drastic increase in the usage of e-cigarettes in schools. Dr Harsh Vardhan stated that about 150 students were caught possessing vamping devices when a surprise check was done in a Delhi School. He gave a comparison that whether a person falls from the 6th floor or the 10th floor, the person in both cases gets injured. An amendment motion also took place to prohibit the display of e-cigarettes which was declined. The opposition was confronted by a viewpoint that the banning e-cigarettes were a step to curb conventional smoking and protect the large portion of the youth falling victim to the same fashion. Ravi Mehrotra, CEO of Indian Cancer Research Consortium stated that tobacco not only is harmful to health but also causes great financial losses.

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Question of Law-

    The bill when comes into force would force the existing owners of e-cigarettes without any delay to declare and deposit the stocks to the nearest office with an authorized officer who would dispose of it according to the law. The bill authorizes officials to search premises without a warrant and seize matter if they have reason to suspect a violation of the rules set up in the bill. It provides powers to attach property, stock of e-cigarettes or records of manufacturers, productions, import, and export, stockiest against the complaint made before the Court of Judicial Magistrate First Class.

   The searches would be under the rules and procedures under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The disposal of seized stocks would comply with the provisions of Chapter XXXIV of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. These would not be in derogation to the already existing laws and in case of difficulty to effect; it would be published in the Official Gazette. Protection of action taken in good faith was also a part of the bill. Public health under Article 47 of the Constitution was sought at in the bill with an ulterior intention to eradicate Tuberculosis by 2025.

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   The bill consisted of a provision stating the penalties concerning the violation of the rules set forth. The first time, violator receives a jail time up to 1 year or a fine of 1 lakh or both. Subsequent violation leads to jail period of 3 years with a fine of 5 lakh. Storing e-cigarettes would follow imprisonment of 6 months or a fine of 50,000 or both.

Conclusion-

   The parliamentary winter session took up the motion to ban e-cigarettes. Once passed, this bill would control the tobacco industry to bring about public interests being taken care. The bill has been passed on to the Rajya Sabha for further process of approval.

READ ALSO: BILLS INTRODUCED IN WINTER SESSION 2019