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Anti-smoking ammo

New Delhi, Feb. 19: The Union Cabinet today cleared amendments to an anti-smoking legislation which will arm it with powers to launch an effective programme against tobacco use.

The amended version of the Bill, which was originally introduced in the Rajya Sabha in March 2001, will be tabled in the current session.

The legislation — Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Bill — seeks to actively discourage advertisements that lure adolescents and children into smoking and will protect non-smokers from the hazards of smoking in public places.

Several states like Goa and Kerala have already introduced legislation that bans smoking in public places, but this will be the first attempt at a national legislation to discourage smoking.

The anti-smoking lobby became active about five years ago and has persuaded the government to ban smoking and selling of tobacco at railway stations.

The anti-tobacco campaign has hurt cigarette makers which have seen unit sales decline progressively over the past few years. However, they have been able to ramp up their revenues by raising retail prices — sometimes several times in a year.

“The ban on tobacco advertisements will be extended to the print media,” health minister Sushma Swaraj told reporters after the meeting. Tobacco makers are not allowed to advertise their products on the electronic media now.

The Cabinet also approved amendments to the Electricity Bill 2000 as part of the power sector reforms.

The Cabinet considered the amendments on the basis of the recommendations made by the standing committee of Parliament after the Bill was referred to it, sources said.

The Bill, which will also be moved in the current session, will replace three existing pieces of legislation: Indian Electricty Act 1910, Electricity Supply Act 1948, and Electricity Regulatory Commission Act 1998.

The basic objective of the amended legislation is to create a new liberal competitive framework for the smooth and accelerated development of the power sector with a concomitant improvement in consumer satisfaction.

Several hurdles in the improvement of power sector are expected to be removed once the electricity Bill is enacted.

The Cabinet also ratified a memorandum of understanding signed between India and Russia on cooperation for combating terrorism.

The two governments have agreed to set up a joint working group to combat international terrorism. The pact provides for exchange of information on terrorist groups and drug cartels.

The two countries have also decided to assist each other in exchanging information and material for blocking funds to terrorist organisations.

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