A Bill to ban production, import and sale of electronic cigarettes and similar products was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Friday. The Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, seeks to replace an ordinance issued on 18 September. The Bill was introduced by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. He later tweeted, “E-cigarettes cause attention, learning & anxiety disorders in adolescents. It also furthers the risk of cardiovascular diseases. I would urge smokers NOT to try unapproved nicotine alternatives. Pls quit smoking completely.”
The Bill makes the manufacturing, production, import, export, distribution, transport, sale, storage or advertisements of such alternative smoking devices a cognizable 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, 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 Rs 50,000, or both, it said.The government had cited health risk to people, especially youth and issued an ordinance to ban such products. 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, e-cigarettes promoting trade bodies, users and other stakeholders have been opposing government’s move to ban “alternative” smoking device, alleging it was a “draconian” step taken in haste to protect the conventional cigarette industry. While the decision to ban e-cigarettes is certainly laudable, the government should impose strict laws on ordinary cigarettes too, which is more dangerous to the health of people.