Industry influence diluted E-cigarette legislation

Public health activist Hemant Goswami. Photo by Wikipedia.

A former member of an expert committee formed by the Centre to suggest ways to restrict the usage of nicotine and nicotine-delivery devices has termed the bill banning e-cigarettes "diluted legislation under industry influence" which fails to address the grave issue of nicotine-laced products.

"It is just an all bark no bite legislation," said public health activist Hemant Goswami.

A recipient of the 2013 WHO award for fighting tobacco, he said the bill "partially addresses" the usage of e-cigarettes, which is less than 1 percent of the real problem of nicotine abuse.

The Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Bill, 2019, is set to become law with Rajya Sabha passing it on Monday, days after it was passed in Lok Sabha.

Goswami, who has been pushing for a ban on all forms of nicotine, said the bill has been diluted under the influence of the industry.

In 2007, Goswami had filed a public interest writ petition in Punjab and Haryana High Court for a ban on chemical nicotine, saying it was a deadly poison and its various forms like sheesha or hookah and e-cigarettes were a grave danger to public health.

In 2012, the high court passed a judgment admitting that nicotine and all nicotine-delivery devices were poisons and the state must regulate their use.

Following the court order, the Union Health Ministry formed a committee in 2013 which had Goswami and WHO officials as expert members on restricting the usage of nicotine and nicotine-delivery devices.

The committee had recommended a complete ban on nicotine in all its forms.

After deliberations for five years, in 2017, the legal group of the committee recommended that "it is necessary and expedient in public interest to completely, without any exception, prohibit the import, manufacturing, distribution, and sale of Nicotine as an extract and/or chemical, and Electronic Nicotine Delivery Devices."

Goswami said the new legislation brought by the health ministry has "completely removed the recommendation to prohibit the use of nicotine as an extract and/or chemical." 

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