Today is world no tobacco day. And, not coincidentally, the Parliament, in a joint sitting, discussed the Tobacco Control Bill. The bill had already been debated in both the Houses last year – today’s discussions were to iron out the differences between the two Houses.
Parliament will probably pass the Tobacco Control Bill tomorrow. And I am concerned.
I’m concerned that we will pass a law that the government will not be able to enforce: a law that criminalizes the sale of cigarettes, but permits smoking, even in designated public spaces.
The proposed law imposes hefty penalties on people who sell tobacco and tobacco products – “punishable with misdemeanor”. And it imposes heftier penalties for those who smuggle tobacco – “punishable with a minimum sentence of felony of fourth degree”. But still, rest assured, a black market for cigarettes and, more so, for the ubiquitous khaini with thrive.
I repeat: I support the Government’s initiatives to develop tobacco control legislation. But, the proposed laws must be realistic and enforceable. And the Tobacco Control Bill is neither.