Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed a bill which seeks to ban electronic cigarettes, with Health Minister Harsh Vardhan saying such a measure was necessary to protect the youth from a new intoxication being promoted by
companies as a new "fashion".
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.
The statutory resolution moved by opposition members to oppose the ordinance were defeated by a voice vote. The House also rejected several amendments moved by opposition members.
Speaking on the bill, Vardhan argued that lack of ban on tobacco cannot be the justification for "introducing new addiction."
To convey his point, Vardhan said if one falls from the tenth floor or sixth floor, he or she is going to get injured irrespective of the floor from which he falls.
To promote e-cigarettes vaping was marketed as fashionable to influence youngsters, which will eventually lead them to addiction of intoxicant substance, so the ban was necessary, he said.
Most parties including opposition parties supported the bill but questioned the government's decision to adopt the ordinance route for the legislation.
Replying to the opposition's argument, Vardhan said, "I can't be insensitive to the health of our people and the ordinance was a presumptive strike on this hazardous addiction."
He said in a country like India if hazardous addictive substances such as liquor and tobacco get accepted by the people then it becomes difficult to check them, so it is better to ban such hazardous addictive substances before their use rises.
He also underlined that these e-cigarettes besides nicotine can also enable delivery of all intoxicant substances, which is dangerous.
Vardhan also insisted that chemicals in nicotine used for e-cigarette can cause cancer, cardiovascular diseases and effects adolescent brains.
The minister also said that the Indian Council of Medical Research issued a white paper on e-cigarette and demanded its ban. 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, it said.