The government may face some hurdles in the passage of a Bill to prohibit e-cigarettes as two Opposition members in Rajya Sabha have moved statutory resolutions objecting to promulgation of an ordinance that the Bill seeks to replace.
Rajya Sabha will discuss The Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019 next. However, MPs K K Ragesh of CPM and T Subbarami Reddy of Congress have moved resolutions against the issuance of the ordinance banning e-cigarettes on September 18.
The Bill — passed by Lok Sabha on Wednesday — aims to ban all commercial operations for the trade of e-cigarettes.
Replying the debate in the Lower House, Minister of Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan dispelled doubts of members about the proposed legislation. Referring to a survey, he said, “The use of e-cigarettes in India was found in only 0.02 per cent of the population. However, during surprise school inspections by the school management, we found 150 vaping devices in the school bags of children in a school in Delhi itself. We cannot assume the problem is not growing. Regulation is not enough. A complete ban was absolutely necessary.”
Justifying the ordinance, Vardhan said, “The ministry was also cognizant and aware of the fact that there was an announced entry of a leading company ‘Juul’ towards the end of this year in India. This leading company is a manufacturer of e-cigarettes. This global giant would have taken the Indian market by storm. The need of the hour was preventive action and immediately, the ordinance was promulgated on 18th of September, 2019.”
He added, “In a country like India, it is difficult to ban a product which has a large consumer base and social acceptance… Since e-cigarettes have a small consumer base, ban will be very highly effective in the initial, like nipping it in the bud.”
About two dozen members participated in the debate.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who moved a resolution objecting to the ordinance, questioned the urgency of its promulgation. “Minister was talking about Juul. Only the scare of Juul Company has propelled this government to invoke the ordinance route. Yes, ordinance could be promulgated but it should be promulgated in emergency. The government cannot invoke ordinance in such a supercilious way or casual way,” Chowdhury said.
He also raised the issue of misuse of power by central or state government officers given under the Bill. “Minister’s legislative document, he has given simply no-holds-barred weaponry to law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Chowdhury said 10 people die every second due to tobacco use, and the government should bring a robust and comprehensive legislation to save them.