New Delhi: Unfazed by the relentless pressure to reconsider the ban imposed on e-cigarettes and ENDS or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, the government is now preparing to bring up the bill in the upcoming winter session of Parliament.
Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Import, Export, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, prepared by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, will replace the Ordinance that was promulgated in September and is expected to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament that begins on November 18.
Sources within the government say that the bill in its totality will address a couple of issues, including how the use of e-cigarettes threatens the country’s tobacco control efforts, and is a hindrance in achieving the targets envisaged under the sustainable development goals.
However, advocates of harm reduction, along with the members of the e- cigarette industry, call the move unfair. “Would the health minister not want that Indian smokers have access to what is globally seen as a less harmful alternative to smoking?” said Praveen Rikhy, Convener of Trade Representatives of ENDS or TRENDS.
Association of Vapers India, too, has said that access to e-cigarettes is a ‘smoker’s right’.
Apart from pushing for a revocation on the ban on grounds that it violates Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, trader bodies have also questioned the economic rationale behind the move. Advocates argue that an uptick in the sale of e-cigarettes has led to a reduction in combustible cigarettes and has reduced public health cost reduction.
This, they say, provides a tax revenue opportunity to the government, generates new livelihood opportunities and creates a market for export. “The export potential of this opportunity may be anywhere between $500-700 million by 2025.” Said TRENDS.
The government on its part, has relied on a report prepared by the Indian Council of Medical Research (IMCR), and has justified the ban by terming e-cigarette consumption as a potential epidemic.
The government also dismisses the use of ENDS as a harm reduction substance, which the ICMR calls a ‘gateway product’.
The Health ministry had also previously put the Bill to ban e-cigarettes in the public domain, inviting feedback on the same.