Modi govt bans e-cigarettes

All stages from manufacturing to sales banned, says Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 18 September 2019

The Union Cabinet has decided to ban Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), popularly referred to as electronic cigarettes — or e-cigarettes — in India. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who also chairs a group of ministers (GoM) on related issues, announced this on September 18, 2019 in New Delhi.

The ban will extend to production / manufacturing, imports, export, transfer, sale, distribution, stocking and advertising of ENDS, the minister said at a press conference after a Cabinet meet.

The decision was keeping in mind the impact of e-cigarettes on the youth, she said citing the American experience. “Latest statistics” showed a 77.8 per cent growth in the number of ENDS users in the United States, Sitharaman said. While the devices were initially marketed as a way to drop the habit of smoking, reports suggest that many don't use them that way anymore, the minister added, suggesting ‘vaping’ has become an addiction in itself.

Tobacco merchants recently requested the Centre to reconsider any move to ban Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS) products.

The concerned GoM, however, examined the ordinance prohibiting e-cigarettes, following a direction from the Prime Minister’s office, Sitharaman said.

Displaying some models of e-cigarettes and explaining rudimentarily how they work, she said around 400 varieties of ENDS are available in India, none of which are made locally. They come in various flavours that make them “cool” for young people, she mentioned.

According to the ordinance's draft, the government proposed a Rs 1 lakh fine and imprisonment of up to one year for first -time violators. For repeated offenders, the fine amount and jail term was proposed at Rs 5 lakh and three years, respectively. The draft proposed six months’ jail term or a fine up to Rs 50,000 for storing e-cigarettes.

Asked whether the government would act similarly against traditional smoking, which is more injurious to health, environment minister Prakash Javedkar said the government ran awareness campaigns for that.

Association of Vapers India (AVI) slammed the government decision and said it deprived 11 crore smokers in India of safer options. The move was draconian and not based on scientific evidence, said Samrat Chowdhery, the director of AVI, which claims to represent e-cigarette users.

The government has a 28 per cent stake in ITC Ltd, which has a near-monopoly in the country’s cigarette business, alleged Chowdhery who campaigned against such a ban.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare banned the sale of e-cigarettes in August 2018. Following a central advisory, 16 states did prohibit the devices but the bans were hardly effective as online retail continued, Down To Earth found.

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