Airline has flouted COTPA law, which prohibits all direct and indirect advertisement of cigarettes and tobacco products
The Union health ministry has asked the civil aviation ministry to stop the sale or any form of promotion of e-cigarettes aboard Air India flights, saying it has become a source of embarrassment for the government.
The letter dated January 24 draws attention to discount booklets—Air Bazaar—being distributed by Air India during flights and also sale of tobacco-free electronic or e-cigarettes with the picture of a model smoking.
Joint secretary in the health ministry, Shakuntala D Gamlin, has said in the letter that all such sales and promotion of the product violates the policy of government of India which talks about using public conveyance for health promotion messages.
The letter cites a Supreme Court decision in case of Health for Millions Vs Union of India and others, and says Air India's sales and promotion of the product amounts to contempt of court. The court, in its order of July 22, 2013, says: “We also make it clear that a sequel to setting aside of the interim order passed by the High Court, the Central government and the governments of all the states shall be bound to rigorously implement the provisions of the 2003 Act and the 2004 rules as amended from time to time.” The Act, Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act or COTPA of 2003, prohibits promotion and advertisement of tobacco products. Air India not only risks contempt of court but has also violated provisions of COTPA.
COTPA was brought into effect on May 1, 2004, primarily with an objective to discourage the use or consumption of tobacco products by eliminating all direct and indirect advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco. Section 5 of the Act specifically prohibits all direct and indirect advertisements of tobacco products. It also prohibits any activity that promotes the use or consumption of cigarettes or any other tobacco products.
In her letter, the joint secretary has mentioned that sale of e-cigarette in Air India flight is in contravention of section 5 of COTPA, 2003.
The health ministry has asked Air India to take all necessary steps to ensure that there is no sale or offer for sale of any such product by the airlines.
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