Brushing aside opposition, the government today moved to amend the anti-smoking law and proposed radical changes, including ban on sale of loose cigarettes and raising the minimum age of a person buying tobacco products to 21 years from existing 18.
It has also proposed raising of fine to Rs 1000 from Rs 200 on smoking in public places as well as recommending removal of designated smoking zones in hotels and restaurants.
These are some of the major recommendations in the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) (Amendment) Bill 2015, which were put out by the Health Ministry today to seek suggestions from the public.
The bill puts to rest speculation about the fate of a panel's recommendations, which had covered most of these issues, as there were reports that the Health Ministry had developed cold feet following outcry from lobbies representing farmers and tobacco industry.
Health Minister J P Nadda had told Rajya Sabha during the Winter Session that his Ministry had accepted the recommendations of the committee formed to review the existing Act, and a draft note for the Cabinet was circulated for inter-ministerial consultation.
Seeking to make violation of the proposed law much more stringent than the existing Act, the draft bill increases the maximum fine to Rs 1 lakh from the existing Rs 10,000.
"No person shall sell, offer for sale, or permit sale of, cigarettes or any other tobacco products loose or in single sticks...to any person who is under 21 years of age; employ, engage or use any person who is under 18 years of age in cultivation, processing, sale of tobacco or tobacco products," according to the proposed bill.