Nagpur : Even as the state home department drafts rules to regulate hookah parlours across Maharashtra, Bharatiya Janata Party’s MLA from Malbar Hill Mangalprabhat Lodha has introduced a private member bill to ban these parlours as they are “ruining the young generation”. The legislator has alleged that many of these parlours sell drugs.
Lodha has moved the bill to amend the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, and make selling tobacco products in hookah parlours punishable with up to three years’ in prison and a fine of up to Rs50,000. The legislator also wants sections 4 and 27 of the Act amended so that the offence becomes cognisable.
The BJP MLA said he moved the bill as the government has failed to regulate parlours despite its assurance in December 2015 to do so.
While introducing the bill in the lower house on Friday, Lodha said hookah parlours have become hotspots for consumption of tobacco products among school and college students below 18 years. These parlours also sell additives and drugs and have become shelters for anti-social elements, he alleged.
“If not ban such joints, the government should at least ensure that the entry to minor youngsters and the sale of banned products are restricted here. I have spoken to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Mumbai police commissioner, and they are in favour of bringing regulations on such parlours,” Lodha told HT.
Last year, the Supreme Court (SC) had ruled that hookah parlours cannot be banned. It had, however, said that the government could regulate them. After that, the state’s home department initiated the process of formulating a draft rule to regulate such parlours, it is likely to bring an amendment in the bill in the Budget session early next year.
As per rough estimates, at 500, Pune has the highest number of hookah parlours, followed by 400 in Mumbai.
Anti-tobacco activists point out that most of these parlours are right outside schools and colleges. “The SC order came because government authorities did not establish facts adequately. It was not brought to the notice of the court that their target audience is minor youngsters, or that these places have become centres for selling addictives. Mere restrictions will not serve the purpose, a blanket ban should be imposed,” said Vincent Nazareth of Crusade Against Tobacco, which was a petitioner in the court demanding a ban on hookah parlours.