Supreme Court lifted the ban on sale and use of Hookah in smoking zones

A bench headed by justice Ranjan Gogoi of the Apex Court held that smoking prohibition only extended to public places and not spaces earmarked for smoking. In a landmark judgment, the Apex Court on Monday lifted a three-year-old ban on hookah smoking holding that prohibition on ‘facilitating’ Hookah smoking in strictly smoking spaces is impermissible in law.

However, the court said ashtrays, match sticks, lighters and other things designed to facilitate smoking are not to be provided in public places. The judgment came on three separate appeals filed against the decisions of the High Courts of Bombay, Gujarat and Madras in 2011. The order could have implications in Delhi also. Supreme Court while setting aside judgments passed by three High Courts struck down the ban on sale and use of hookahs in hotels, restaurants and even airports where smoking is otherwise legally permitted.

First appeal was against the Bombay High Court’s judgment which upheld the validity of an administrative circular issued in 2011 and opined that, smoking areas meant exclusively for the purpose and cannot have any “apparatus designed to facilitate smoking.” In the same year Gujarat High Court endorse a similar circular which prohibited hookah bars and hookah smoking in hotels and restaurants. Similarly, Madras High Court upheld a circular dated July 5, 2011 prohibiting owners of restaurants from providing tobacco to adults.

While delivering the judgment, apex court clarified the Rule 3 of the Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Rules, 2008 and explained that it is incumbent for owners of a public place to ensure that no person smokes there. Court further opined that ban on hookah smoking in smoking areas is outside the purview of the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply & Distribution) Act, 2003 or the Cigarettes Act.

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