The Lok Sabha took up for discussion a bill that proposes a ban on e-cigarettes, prescribes a maximum punishment of three years in jail and a fine of up to ₹5 lakh for violations.
● The Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Bill, 2019, has been brought in to replace an Ordinance issued on September 18.
● The Bill, moved by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, makes manufacturing, production, import/export, distribution, transport, sale, storage or advertisements of e-cigarettes and similar devices a cognizable offense.
● First-time violators can be sentenced for up to one-year imprisonment and fine up to ₹1 lakh.
● Subsequent offenses would attract up to three years’ jail term or a maximum fine of ₹5 lakh, or both.
● Storage will also be punishable with up to six months in jail or a fine of up to ₹50,000, or both.
● The Bill empowers enforcement officials to carry out searches and seize the banned products.
What is an E-cigarette?
● E-cigarettes are the most common form of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS).
● The E-cigarette does not use tobacco leaves but vaporizes a solution using a battery that is inhaled by the user.
● The E-liquids usually contain propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine, flavorings, additives, and differing amounts of contaminants
Reasons behind the ban
● Once nicotine is used in the solution of an e-cigarette, the difference between it and a conventional cigarette ends.
● Indian Council of Medical Research in a white paper stated that the uses of ENDS, or e-cigarettes, have documented adverse effects which include DNA damage; carcinogenesis (initiation of cancer formation); cellular, molecular and immunological toxicity; respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological disorders.
● It also impacts fetal development and pregnancy, according to ICMR, which had recommended a “complete prohibition” of these products.
● These products have neither been assessed for safety in the national population nor been approved under the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.
● 16 states and one Union territory had already banned e-cigarettes.
● These include Punjab, Karnataka, Mizoram, Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry, Rajasthan, Meghalaya, Odisha, and Nagaland.
Reactions against the ban
● E-cigarettes promoting trade bodies, users and other stakeholders opposed the government's move to ban the "alternative" smoking device, alleging it to be a "draconian" step taken in haste to protect the conventional cigarette industry.
● Association of Vapers India (AVI), an organization representing e-cigarette users, also alleged that it is a black day for the 11 crore smokers in India who have been deprived of safer options.