Thursday, 23 January, 2020

India bans e-cigarettes as vaping backlash grows

Electronic cigarette devices on display at a vape shop in New Delhi Electronic cigarette devices on display at a vape shop in New Delhi
Robin Buchanan | 19 September, 2019, 12:54

The ordinance cleared by the Cabinet makes production, import, export, distribution, sale and advertising of e-cigarettes a cognisable offence.

In the draft ordinance, the health ministry proposed a maximum imprisonment of up to one year along with a penalty of Rs 1 lakh against first time violators. Repeat offenders will be penalised with a jail term up to 3 years and fine up to Rs. 5 lakhs. As well, government officials are warning against storing existing devices, saying anyone who is caught doing so will face up to six months in prison and up to a $700 United States dollars fine.

"Considering the seriousness of the impact of e-cigarettes on the youth, the cabinet has approved an ordinance to ban e-cigarettes", Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told a news conference.

Spokespeople for two of the biggest e-cigarette companies, Juul and Philip Morris, did not comment on India's ban.

The use of e-cigarettes has been promoted as a healthier alternative to smoking tobacco but the announcement is a further blow to an industry estimated to be worth £9.2 billion.

The Association of Vapers India, an organization that represents e-cigarette users across the country, attacked the government's decision, saying it would deprive millions of smokers of a safer solution to cut back on smoking.

But many of them said if the government truly cared about health risks, it should ban tobacco cigarettes, which are proven cause of cancer. He said this is a reward for productivity.

More than 900,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses in India each year, from an adult smoker population of over 100 million.

According to the World Health Organization, India is the world's second-largest consumer of tobacco products, with almost a third of its population using the products as of 2017. E-cigarettes form just a tiny part of their product range. "The government believes from my perspective that it's all right to smoke cigarettes ... which is much more injurious for our health that vaping would be". However, despite the ban, these states lack effective implementation of the ban as the use of e-cigarettes continued to grow.

"Productivity-linked bonus amounting to 78 days' work wages for over 11.5 lakh non-gazetted Railway employees (excluding RPF/RPSF personnel) approved", the government said.