A bill to ban the production, import and sale of electronic cigarettes was passed by Lok Sabha on 27 November, Wednesday.
The Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, seeks to replace an ordinance issued on September 18.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who had moved the bill for consideration and passage, defended the ban, telling the Lok Sabha that vaping is harmful for the health of the people.
Replying to a discussion on the bill, he said,
Harsh Vardhan“Less harmful does not mean it is not harmful.”
He defended the ordinance route, saying the government felt the need to nip in the bud the growing use of e-cigarettes and similar products.
On 26 November, cutting across party lines, members in Lok Sabha had supported the bill to ban the production, import and sale of electronic cigarettes, though the Congress questioned the government's decision to adopt the ordinance route for the legislation.
Moving a statutory resolution objecting to promulgation of the ordinance, Congress member Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury had said he has no fundamental objection to the contents of the bill, but was against the adoption of ordinance route by the government for a subject which was not of urgent importance.
He questioned the urgency behind the ordinance at a time when 16 states have already banned e-cigarettes.
Participating in the discussion, Varun Gandhi (BJP) defended the ordinance saying "prevention is always better than cure".
The bill makes the manufacturing, production, import, export, distribution, transport, sale, storage or advertisements of such alternative smoking devices a cognisable 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, will be imposed, 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.
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, trade bodies promoting e-cigarettes, users and other stakeholders have been opposing the government's move to ban the alternative smoking device, alleging that it was a draconian step taken in haste to protect the conventional cigarette industry.
(With inputs from PTI)
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