Opposition for steps against all tobacco items, alcohol

Indian Parliament. (File Photo: IANS)

New Delhi:  A Bill to ban e-cigarettes invited sharp attacks on the government in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday with opposition raising objection over the government intention of taking action only against it and showing negligence towards sale of other tobacco and alcohol products, which caused health hazards like cancer.

Participating in the debate over the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage, Advertisement) Bill, 2019, lawmakers from the Congress, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) targeted the government for safeguarding the business of private Indian Industries, involved in production of other tobacco products.

The Janata Dal (United), a BJP alliance partner, also demanded that the government ban other tobacco products as well as alcohol along with banning e-cigarettes, which are battery-operated e-devices that heat a substance (natural or artificial) to create vapour for inhalation.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan introduced the Bill in the House. He will reply to the debate on Wednesday and explain how they are hazardous to health for which the Centre has introduced the Bill.

E-cigarettes may contain nicotine and flavours, and include all forms of electronic nicotine delivery systems, heat-not-burn products, and e-hookahs.

Stating that only three per cent Indians use e-cigarettes, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (Congress) said action should also be taken against producers of other tobacco products.

Saugata Roy (TMC) said the government was only taking action against the fringe of the problem. There were many tobacco products, more dangerous for health, he added.

He said the government had brought the Bill, which concerned a miniscule population and 99.98 per cent people had been left out. The Bill didn’t touch people who smoked cigarettes or consumed gutkha or chewing tobacco, he added.

Ritesh Pandey (BSP) asked why the government was not taking steps to ban other tobacco products as well. “You (Centre) are being biased to certain lobbies. This is sad. The government should look towards banning other tobacco products too,” Pandey said.

Imtiyaz Jaleel (AIMIM) said his party supported steps to stop consumption of tobacco products, but noted only banning products or making laws were not enough. “Harsh steps should also be taken to implement rules,” he said.

Participating in the discussion, Varun Gandhi (BJP) defended the ordinance earlier promulgated by the Centre saying “prevention is always better than cure”. He also dismissed the reports that suggested e-cigarettes were less harmful than conventional cigarettes.

Gandhi said introduction of e-cigarettes in the USA had brought down the average smoking age to 17 years from 30 years, which was alarming.

Mahabali Singh (JD-U) said the government should not only ban e-cigarette but also all tobacco products as well as alcohol like Bihar.

On September 18, the Centre promulgated the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage, Advertisement) Ordinance that prohibited manufacture, trade and advertisement of e-cigarettes in India.