An umbrella body of traders promoting electronic cigarettes has termed as "draconian" the Union Home Ministry's advisory to all states and UTs to implement the ban on e-cigarettes that allows officials to conduct searches on-premises for the product without a warrant. The Home Ministry had last week wrote to the chief secretaries and the director-general of police of all states and Union territories asking them to ensure enforcement of the ban on e-cigarettes and other provisions of the ordinance which was issued in September.
It asked them to implement the provisions of the ordinance "considering the deleterious impact of e-cigarettes on public health, especially in respect of the young population going to schools and colleges". The health ministry intends to introduce the bill that will replace the ordinance banning e-cigarettes in the ongoing session of Parliament.
Trade Representatives of Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (TRENDS) which has been strongly challenging the health ministry's decision said the legislation to ban e-cigarettes" is being rammed through without feedback or a democratic debate or discussion-as if an emergency is upon us".
"TRENDS maintains that a draconian bill has been proposed where any sub-inspector can enter premises, seize, arrest without a warrant. Is the Emergency back? Perhaps the first time ever that a bill is being sought to be passed to ban a product category that holds no threat to national security or public health," Praveen Rikhy, the convener of TRENDS, said.
The Home Ministry in its letter stated that sections 4 and 5 of the ordinance provide for the prohibition of e-cigarettes while sections 7 and 8 prescribe the punishment for contravention of the provisions. The ordinance empowers police officers of the rank of sub-Inspector and above and other officers as stipulated, with powers to enter, search and seize the prohibited items, without a warrant under section 6, the letter said.
"It is requested that enforcement of provisions of ordinance may kindly be ensured, considering the potential deleterious impact of e-cigarettes on public health. Congruent capacity building and sensitization of enforcement personnel may be done for implementation of the ordinance," the ministry said.
The government promulgated an ordinance namely Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019 on September 18.
The ordinance makes the manufacturing, production, import, export, distribution, transport, sale, storage or advertisements of such alternative smoking devices a cognizable offence, attracting jail term and fine.
First-time violators will face a jail term of up to one year and a fine of Rs 1 lakh. For subsequent offences, a jail term of up to three years or a fine of Rs 5 lakh, or both according to the ordinance.
The home ministry has written to the states and Union Territories asking them to ensure enforcement of the prohibition on e-cigarettes. The ordinance empowers police officers of the rank of sub-inspectors and above and other officers as stipulated with the power to enter any establishment, search and seize the prohibited items without a warrant.
Wednesday issued an order to all states and UTs, enabling law enforcement officials to conduct searches on-premises for the product without a warrant. Cops can search for, seize e-cigarettes without a warrant.