New Delhi: The government on Wednesday banned e-cigarettes, with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman saying the habit affected youth the most.
“The Union Cabinet has given approval to ban e-cigarettes. It means the production, manufacturing, import/export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertising related to e-cigarettes are banned,” Sitharaman said in a press conference.
The Finance Minister said the decision was taken “so that we could take early action with regards to health of people”. She added that the government hoped to pass an ordinance on the same in the next session of Parliament.
E-cigarettes, which are not licensed in India, do not burn tobacco but use a heating element to vaporise liquid nicotine, which the user inhales. That is what differentiates it from a combustible cigarette.
The ease of access to e-cigarettes and their marketing as products that could help smokers kick the conventional butt are the reasons behind the government deciding to crack the whip.
More than 900,000 people die each year in the country due to tobacco-related illnesses. But India has 106 million adult smokers, second only to China in the world, making it a lucrative market for firms such as Juul and Philip Morris.
The Union Health Ministry had earlier issued an advisory to all states and Union Territories to ensure that Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn devices, vape, e-sheesha, e-nicotine flavoured hookah, and devices that enable nicotine delivery are not sold (including online sale), manufactured, distributed, traded, imported and advertised in their jurisdictions.
Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan had also written to the Commerce Secretary to block the entry of JUUL, a US-based company manufacturing vaping devices like e-cigarettes, into India. Sudan said the entry of JUUL products, if not prevented, could undermine the efforts taken by the government towards tobacco control.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had red-flagged the use of e-cigarettes citing studies that have shown that these have the potential to cause nicotine addiction. The ICMR’s white paper also relies on studies done and action taken by bodies like the food and drug administration (FDA) in the US which has curbed the sale of e-cigarette over concerns that it leads to an increase in smoking among teens.
The ICMR noted in its white paper that e-cigarettes and other such devices contained not only nicotine solution, which was highly addictive but also harmful ingredients such as flavouring agents and vaporisers. Use of ENDS or e-cigarettes has documented adverse effects on humans, which include DNA damage, carcinogenic, cellular, molecular and immunological toxicity, respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological disorders, and adverse impact on foetal development and pregnancy.
On Tuesday, New York became the second US state to ban flavoured e-cigarettes, following several vaping-linked deaths that have raised fears about a product long promoted as less harmful than smoking.
A health council passed emergency legislation proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo outlawing flavoured vaping products amid an outbreak of severe pulmonary disease that has killed seven people and sickened hundreds.