Lok Sabha passed a Bill that seeks prohibition of e-Cigarettes in India calling the ban as a “pre-emptive strike" on the “hazardous" addiction.
The intention behind such a prohibition
- According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the use of ENDS or e-cigarettes has documented the adverse effects on humans, which include cardiovascular and neurological disorders. These also have an adverse effect on fetal development and pregnancy.
- Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, and therefore are not regulated under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), 2003.
The COTPA Act regulates the sale, production, and distribution of cigarettes and other tobacco products in India, and prohibits the advertisement of cigarettes.
- The government felt the need to stop the growing use of e-cigarettes and similar products among youth.
- It is difficult to ban a product such as tobacco and alcohol once it gains a large consumer base and social acceptance. Currently, e-cigarettes do not have a large consumer base in the country.
- The government wants to save the large youth population of the country that would have been targeted by e-cigarette companies.
- Vaping is harmful to the health of the people and “less harmful does not mean it is not harmful" as people claim it is less harmful than cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that produce an aerosol by heating a solution containing nicotine. These include all forms of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), Heat Not Burn Products, e-hookah and the likes.
About the Bill
- Replaced the ordinance: The Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Bill, 2019, has been brought in to replace an Ordinance issued on September 18.
- Cognizable offense: The Bill 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.
There has been concerns among different segments and questioned not punishing the users of ENDS.
Critics of banning e-cigarettes
- There are other countries, like the UAE, that had earlier banned the product category in haste but revoked the ban and implemented a regulatory regime, which is the demand of the industry in India as well.
- The majority of e-cigarette users in the world are ex-smokers, making a health decision to switch to a less harmful alternative. This may push them towards far more deadly cigarettes available in the market.
- Over 98 countries have e-cigarette regulations, but India is banning them while allowing the far more deadly cigarettes to be sold.
- The bill also does not contain consumer protections such as clauses on the exclusion of personal use and a mechanism for adult vapers to access devices.
- With the passage of the Bill, public health experts are holding hopes for paving way for control of tobacco products as well.
- After the successful banning of e-cigarettes, India should ideally take the bold step of moving to end tobacco use.
- Now that the gateway is opened, endgame tobacco is the logical next step. It won't be easy but can be done is a phased manner, safeguarding the interests of various stakeholders.
Lack of ban on tobacco cannot be the justification for not banning a new addiction that India cannot afford. Chemicals in nicotine used for e-cigarette can cause cancer, cardiovascular diseases and effects adolescent brains. The introduction of the bill is a progressive step in saving the large youth population of the country that would have been targeted by e-cigarette companies.
Also read: Ban on E-Cigarettes