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Ban on Hookahs in Karnataka

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  • Context (IE): On February 7, the Karnataka health department issued a notification banning the sale and consumption of hookahs to safeguard public health.
  • Consequently, several restaurant owners approached the Karnataka High Court to challenge this notification.
  • However, on February 20, the Karnataka government introduced a bill to ban the opening of hookah bars in any location.
  • The bill amended the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) of 2003 to penalise individuals opening hookah bars in the state with,
    • It included imprisonment ranging from 1 to 3 years. A fine of up to 1 lakh rupees.
  • Notably, Maharashtra, Rajasthan & Tamil Nadu have passed such amendments in the past.

Arguments by the Petitioners

  • Firstly, the notification is considered illegal interference because it goes beyond the prohibitions stated in the COTPA.
    • According to the petition, the COTPA bans public smoking, advertisement of tobacco products, and sale to minors but does not prohibit hookah smoking.
    • As per Section 4 of the COTPA, hookah smoking is allowed in designated smoking areas, making the notification’s restrictions beyond the scope of the law.
  • Secondly, the petition argues that the Karnataka health department does not have the authority to issue the notification under the COTPA.
  • Thirdly, the notification infringes upon the rights of business owners as guaranteed by Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.
    • Article 19(1)(g) grants citizens the right to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

Arguments by the Government

  • The “Public health and sanitation; hospitals and dispensaries” falls under Entry 6 of the State List in the 7th Schedule of the Constitution. So, the state government asserts the authority to issue the notification.
  • The government cited Article 162 of the Constitution, granting state governments “executive power” in areas where the legislature has authority to enact laws.
  • The government also cited Article 47 of the Constitution, which mandates the government to strive for the prohibition of consuming intoxicating drinks and harmful drugs.

Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) of 2003

Restrictions on sale

  • Smoking is forbidden in public places.
  • Separate smoking areas must be provided in hotels with more than 30 rooms or restaurants with a seating capacity of at least 30, as well as airports.
  • Tobacco goods and cigarettes should not be sold or supplied to anybody under the age of eighteen.
  • It is also illegal to sell such things within a 100-yard radius of any educational facility.
  • Under this act, giving consent to conduct the foregoing activities is likewise a crime.
  • Violations: Result in a fine of up to Rs. 200 and the offences under this category are compoundable.

Restrictions on promotion/advertisement

  • Advertising of tobacco or its products is prohibited for manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors.
  • Media is also barred from promoting tobacco through advertisements.
  • Advertising, brochures, or documents containing tobacco products or cigarette promotional movies are prohibited from being shown, distributed, or sold.
  • First-time Violation: Up to two years in prison and/or a fine of Rs.1000.
  • Subsequent Violation carries a sentence of up to five years in jail and/or a fine of up to Rs.5000.

Regulations on the packaging

  • Warning labels with specific symbols and messages must be present on every packet of cigarettes and tobacco products.
  • Distribution, trade, or import of these products is prohibited until the warning labels are affixed.
  • The warning should be on at least one of the largest panels of the package.
  • Labels on cigarettes and tobacco products should detail nicotine and tar levels, along with maximum allowable limits.

Search and seize of tobacco products

  • Under the act, police officers of at least the rank of Subinspector and officials of the State Food and Drug Administration can conduct searches and seizures.

Confiscation and procedure to be followed

  • The court can permit the owner of seized goods to pay a fee equal to the value of the goods instead of confiscation.
  • However, paying the fee or having goods confiscated doesn’t exempt the offender from the punishment stipulated by the act.
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