Govt withdraws draft anti-tobacco legislation, to add more teeth to it

| | New Delhi

The tobacco industry can heave a sigh of relief, for now, as the Government has withdrawn the draft anti-tobacco legislation, framed in 2015, that proposed stringent measures to curb availability of the hazardous items including cigarettes in the country.

Sources in the Union Health Ministry said that the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Amendment Bill, 2015 has been withdrawn.

Though the Ministry has maintained that the draft legislation will be replaced by a new modified Bill which will also bring in its legal ambit the illicit trade in tobacco and EIectronic Nicotine Delivery System ( ENDS) including e-cigarettes and vaping devices, activists rue that it will be yet another long-drawn process before it becomes a reality. As has happened with the Draft Bill COTPA, 2015, it was put out in the public domain by the Ministry for inviting suggestions by April 2015, but before it could see the light of the day it has been already withdrawn.

The Bill had proposed ban on-site advertising of tobacco products and shops selling cigarettes and other tobacco products from displaying the brand names besides scrapping of designated smoking areas from hotels, restaurants and airports making an exception only for international airports to prevent exposure of non-smokers to harmful emissions.

It also proposed increase in penalty for smoking in restricted areas from 200 to 1000 rupees. There is also a need to plug the reality of potential misuse of the Corporate Social Responsibility activities by tobacco companies to indirectly promote or advertise tobacco products,” it says.

The COTPA Bill 2015 also proposed ban on spitting of tobacco products in public, saying it is one of the biggest causes of spread of infectious diseases like TB, pneumonia, swine flu and avian flu.

No doubt there is a need to check illicit trade in tobacco including cigarettes which is on rise and e-cigarettes/Vaping devices and similar products that are pushing children towards the tobacco habit eventually via nicotine dependence, the framing of new legislation will take its own time, say the experts.

India is home to 275 million tobacco users. The use of smokeless tobacco has become a major public health menace, which, if not checked in time with strong measures, could become a national threat. The aggressive marketing strategies marked by attractive packaging, flavouring and price-cuts represent a major challenge for the Government.

Consumption of smuggled cigarettes in India has increased by over 90 per cent in past 10 years, as per a latest report by industry body FICCI.

According to a paper prepared by World Health Organisation, titled ‘Illicit Tobacco Trade In India: Forms, Trends and Potential Actions’, the smuggled cigarettes are suspected to be from Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China and the United Arab Emirates and common transit points are Delhi, Singapore and Dubai.E-cigarettes or vaping devices convert liquid nicotine into vapour and do not have all the chemicals of traditional cigarettes. Though these are being promoted as alternatives, studies say these are more harmful.

For instance, a recent study by researchers from the New York University School of Medicine, suggested that vaping can also mutate DNA and thus increases the risk of cancer and heart diseases. The heat-up of nicotine solution during vaping converts it into DNA-damaging chemical and thus can put one at greater risk of cancer, the study says.



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