To completely ban e-cigarettes, the Rajya Sabha passed the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, by voice vote. The Lok Sabha has already passed the bill to replace the ordinance announced last September.
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The Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urged to pass the legislation with one accord in the interest of the children, as a reply to members on the Bill. Vardhan said, “There is evidence now that e-cigarettes are very harmful. They can become a bigger menace than tobacco one day. So, the government has intended to nip the problem in the bud itself.”
Most members in the House supported the ban on e-cigarettes while some MP conflicted why conventional cigarettes aren’t banned as they are equally or even more harmful.
The majority of opposition members expressed reservation over bringing the ordinance and introducing the Bill without sending the same to a Parliamentary Standing Committee. In regard, why all tobacco products are not being banned.
He would be the happiest person if that happens, said health minister, “You see, in a country as vast as India, once a particular product has a very big consumer base and social acceptance, it is very, very difficult to ban it.”
He added, apart from the other thing, one big reason for bringing the ordinance was some of the big tobacco companies changed their names and started making plans to enter India.
“They had made full preparations. There was an announced entry of a company called Juul, one of the leading global manufacturers of e-cigarettes, in December 2019. It was probably one of the most imminent concerns that worried all of us,” said Vardhan.
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A normal cigarette constitutes 700 chemicals out of which 250 are very much harmful. Further, out of these 250 chemicals, 60 cause cancer while all of them are carcinogenic reported by Rajya Sabha MP, also the national president of the Indian Medical Association.
Trinamool Congress leader Santanu Sen argued for banning all tobacco product, he also added, “Smoking increases coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times. It increases stroke by 2 to 4 times. It increases lung cancer by 25 times and it increases the probability of COPDA (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) by 13 times.”
He suspected the intention of the government behind bringing the ordinance and subsequently the Bill hurriedly. “People are smelling a rat in the way this Bill has been brought hastily,” said Congress MP B.K. Hariprasad while making a case for banning all tobacco products as all of them were equally harmful.
He said the government should not succumb to tobacco lobbyists
The manner in which the bill had been introduced as no survey or study was carried out before bringing the legislation raised questions said Senior CPI leader Binoy Viswam.
Harsh Vardhan on replying to members on the bill said, all the life he had fought against tobacco lobbyists and therefore members should not have any suspicion on his intention.
The ban has to be a last resort rather than the first resort which is what has been the practice in this particular context, said Congress MP Rajeev Gowda.
He said, “A ban or prohibition, as we have seen everywhere, results in underground activities. It results in the criminalization of society. It results in the creation of a mafia that deals with underground activity.”
E-cigarettes are electronic devices that deliver all intoxicating substances. Predominantly, they are used for nicotine delivery, which is one of the most addictive elements known. Includes all forms of electronic nicotine as well as non-nicotine delivery devices such as e-hookahs and heat-not-burn products.
Harsh Vardhan clarified that e-cigarettes are not tobacco products, moving the bill.
“Any comparison of their adverse health impacts with tobacco is misplaced. There is also no conclusive evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes. On the other hand, there is definitely emerging evidence all over the world that e-cigarettes have significantly harmful effects on health,” he said.
The minister said that nicotine sulfate was once approved to be used as a pesticide by the agriculture department, on highlighting the harmful effects. And now, even that approval has been withdrawn considering its toxicity. Conclusively, it is a chemical that is not even fit to be used as a pesticide.
Harsh Vardhan said, “It is the most addictive substance currently known in the world and is even more addictive than heroin. There is currently no known treatment for nicotine-addiction anywhere in the world.”
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