On Wednesday, the government promulgated an Ordinance to ban electronic cigarettes in India. In this context, we look at what are electronic cigarettes, what are the current regulations in place, and what the Ordinance seeks to do.
What are electronic cigarettes?
The Ordinance defines electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) as battery-operated devices that heat a substance, which may or may not contain nicotine, to create vapour for inhalation. These e-cigarettes can also contain different flavours such as menthol, mango, watermelon, and cucumber. Usually, e-cigarettes are shaped like conventional tobacco products (such as cigarettes, cigars, or hookahs), but they also take the form of everyday items such as pens and USB memory sticks.
Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco and therefore are not regulated under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003. This Act regulates the sale, production, and distribution of cigarettes and other tobacco products in India, and prohibits advertisement of cigarettes.
What are the international regulations for e-cigarettes?
India is a signatory to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) which was developed in response to the globalisation of the tobacco epidemic. In 2014, the WHO FCTC invited all its signatories to consider prohibiting or regulating e-cigarettes in their countries. This was suggested due to emerging evidence on the negative health impact of these products which could result in lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and other illnesses associated with smoking.
Since then, several countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Singapore, and Thailand have banned the production, manufacture, and sale of e-cigarettes. Recently, the states of New York and Michigan in USA banned the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes. Whereas, in UK, the manufacture and sale of e-cigarettes has been allowed based on certain conditions. Further, the advertisement and promotion, and the levels of nicotine in e-cigarettes is also regulated.
Prior to the Ordinance, were e-cigarettes regulated in India?
In August 2018, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had released an advisory to all states requiring them to not approve any new e-cigarettes and restrict the sale and advertisements of e-cigarettes. Based on this advisory, 15 states including Delhi, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh have since banned e-cigarettes. However, this advisory was challenged in the Delhi High Court in March 2019, which subsequently imposed a stay on the ban.
What does the Ordinance do?
The Ordinance prohibits the production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution and advertisement of e-cigarettes in India. Any person who contravenes this provision will be punishable with imprisonment of up to one year, or a fine of one lakh rupees, or both. For any subsequent offence, the person will be punishable with an imprisonment of up to three years, along with a fine of up to five lakh rupees.
Additionally, storage of e-cigarettes will be punishable with an imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine of Rs 50,000 or both. Once the Ordinance comes into force (i.e., on September 18, 2019), the owners of existing stocks of e-cigarettes will have to declare and deposit these stocks at the nearest office of an authorised officer. Such an authorised officer may be a police officer (at least at the level of a sub-inspector), or any other officer as notified by the central or state government.
Note that, the Ordinance does not contain any provisions regarding possession or use of e-cigarettes. The Ordinance will be in force for the next six months, and must be approved by Parliament within six weeks of the commencement of the next session of Parliament. If it is not passed within this time frame, it will cease to be in force.
The National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021 is listed for passage in Rajya Sabha today. It was passed by Lok Sabha last week. The Bill creates a regulatory framework for anti-doping rule violations in sports. It was examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports, and some of their recommendations have been incorporated in the Bill passed by Lok Sabha.
Doping is the consumption of certain prohibited substances by athletes to enhance performance. Across the world, doping is regulated and monitored by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which is an independent international agency established in 1999. WADA’s primary role is to develop, harmonise, and coordinate anti-doping regulations across all sports and countries. It does so by ensuring proper implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code (WADA Code) and its standards. In this blog post, we discuss the need of the framework proposed by the Bill, and give insights from the discussion on the Bill in Lok Sabha.
Doping in India
Recently, two Indian athletes failed the doping test and are facing provisional suspension. In the past also, Indian athletes have been found in violation of anti-doping rules. In 2019, according to WADA, most of the doping rule violations were committed by athletes from Russia (19%), followed by Italy (18%), and India (17%). Most of the doping rule violations were committed in bodybuilding (22%), followed by athletics (18%), cycling (14%), and weightlifting (13%). In order to curb doping in sports, WADA requires all countries to have a framework regulating anti-doping activities managed by their respective National Anti-Doping Organisations.
Currently, doping in India is regulated by the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA), which was established in 2009 as an autonomous body under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. One issue with the existing framework is that the anti-doping rules are not backed by a legislation and are getting challenged in courts. Further, NADA is imposing sanctions on athletes without a statutory backing. Taking into account such instances, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports (2021) had recommended that the Department of Sports bring in an anti-doping legislation. Other countries such as the USA, UK, Germany, and Japan have enacted legislations to regulate anti-doping activities.
Framework proposed by the National Anti-Doping Bill, 2021
The Bill seeks to constitute NADA as a statutory body headed by a Director General appointed by the central government. Functions of the Agency include planning, implementing and monitoring anti-doping activities, and investigating anti-doping rule violations. A National Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel will be set up for determining consequences of anti-doping rule violations. This panel will consist of legal experts, medical practitioners, and retired athletes. Further, the Board will constitute an Appeal Panel to hear appeals against decisions of the Disciplinary Panel. Athletes found in violation of anti-doping rules may be subject to: (i) disqualification of results including forfeiture of medals, points, and prizes, (ii) ineligibility to participate in a competition or event for a prescribed period, (iii) financial sanctions, and (iv) other consequences as may be prescribed. Consequences for team sports will be specified by regulations.
Initially, the Bill did not have provisions for protected athletes but after the Standing Committee’s recommendation, provisions for such athletes have been included in the Bill. Protected persons will be specified by the central government. As per the WADA Code, a protected person is someone: (i) below the age of 16, or (ii) below the age of 18 and has not participated in any international competition in an open category, or (iii) lacks legal capacity as per their country’s legal framework
Issues and discussion on the Bill in Lok Sabha
During the discussion on the Bill, members highlighted several issues. We discuss these below-
Independence of NADA
One of the issues highlighted was the independence of the Director General of NADA. WADA requires National Doping Organisations to be independent in their functioning as they may experience external pressure from their governments and national sports bodies which could compromise their decisions. First, under the Bill, the qualifications of the Director General are not specified and are left to be notified through Rules. Second, the central government may remove the Director General from the office on grounds of misbehaviour or incapacity or “such other ground”. Leaving these provisions to the discretion of the central government may affect the independence of NADA.
Privacy of athletes
NADA will have the power to collect certain personal data of athletes such as: (a) sex or gender, (ii) medical history, and (iii) whereabout information of athletes (for out of competition testing and collection of samples). MPs expressed concerns about maintaining the privacy of athletes. The Union Sports Minister in his response, assured the House that all international privacy standards will be followed during collection and sharing of data. Data will be shared with only relevant authorities.
Under the Bill, NADA will collect and use personal data of athletes in accordance with the International Standard for the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information. It is one of the eight ‘mandatory’ standards of the World Anti-Doping Code. One of the amendments moved by the Union Sports Minister removed the provision relating to compliance with the International Standard for the Protection of Privacy and Personal Information.
Establishing more testing laboratories across states
Currently India has one National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL). MPs raised the demand to establish testing laboratories across states to increase testing capacity. The Minister responded by saying that if required in the future, the government will establish more testing laboratories across states. Further, in order to increase testing capacity, private labs may also be set up. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports (2022) also emphasised the need to open more dope testing laboratories, preferably one in each state, to cater to the need of the country and become a leader in the South East Asia region in the areas of anti-doping science and education.
In August, 2019 a six-month suspension was imposed on NDTL for not complying with International Standard for Laboratories (ISL) by WADA. The suspension was extended for another six months in July, 2020 due to non-conformity with ISL. The second suspension was to remain in effect until the Laboratory complies with ISL. However, the suspension was extended for another six months in January, 2021 as COVID-19 impacted WADA’s ability to conduct an on-site assessment of the Laboratory. In December, 2021 WADA reinstated the accreditation of NDTL.
Several athletes in India are not aware about the anti-doping rules and the prohibited substances. Due to lack of awareness, they end up consuming prohibited substances through supplements. MPs highlighted the need to conduct more awareness campaigns around anti-doping. The Minister informed the House that in the past one year, NADA has conducted about 100 hybrid workshops relating to awareness on anti-doping. The Bill will enable NADA to conduct more awareness campaigns and research in anti-doping. Further, the central government is working with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to test dietary supplements consumed by athletes.
While examining the Bill, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Sports (2022) recommended several measures to improve and strengthen the antidoping ecosystem in the country. These measures include: (i) enforcing regulatory action towards labelling and use of ‘dope-free’ certified supplements, and (ii) mandating ‘dope-free’ certification by independent bodies for supplements consumed by athletes.