Vaping, promoted as a technology less harmful than traditional, has now been banned in India following finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman's announcement to the effect on Wednesday. The ordinance banning e-cigarettes will need to be approved by Parliament when it returns for the next session due in November.
the ban, Sitharaman cited a report that said e-cigarette sales have risen 77.8 percent because of consumption by students. “The decision was made keeping in mind the impact that e-cigarettes have on the youth of today,” Sitharaman told reporters in New Delhi.
The government ban covers the production, manufacturing, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, and storage of e-cigarettes as well as advertisements promoting them.
Sitharaman said that the ban will advance tobacco control efforts and contribute to a reduction in tobacco usage. Punishments include imprisonment or a fine of up to Rs 50,000 or both.
Interestingly, e-cigarettes do not burn tobacco rather vaporise liquid nicotine by using its heating element. The user inhales this vaporized form of nicotine.
Currently, there are over 460 e-cigarette brands in India, with various configurations of nicotine delivery — including
e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn devices, vape, e-sheesha, e-nicotine-flavoured hookah, and other similar devices — and offer over 7,700 flavours.
Often considered as a style statement or a cool trend by millennials, more than 900,000 people die every year from tobacco-related illnesses.
According to the World Health Organization, after China, India is the world’s second-largest consumer of traditional tobacco products, which are not covered by the new ban, killing nearly 900,000 people every year.
It also suggests 35 percent of adults chew tobacco — which also comes in all sorts of assorted flavours, including chocolate, and is equally dangerous but more prevalent than smoking.
India is also the world’s third-largest producer of tobacco, and tobacco farmers are an important vote bank for political parties, according to the WHO data.
The health ministry says the solvent chemicals present in e-cigarettes are hazardous and could be fatal. A health ministry paper said: “Available scientific evidence indicated that e-cigarettes and similar technologies that encourage tobacco are hazardous for an active as well as passive user. Pure nicotine, the main ingredient of e-cigarettes, and its chemical derivatives in extracted chemical form are highly addictive and poisonous and have a potential to cause death even in small quantities."
“E-cigarettes pose significant health risks to users that are frighteningly similar to those of conventional cigarettes. They are being marketed as a harm reduction product, which is contrary to the truth," said Bhavna B Mukhopadhyay, chief executive of Voluntary Health Association of India, a public health organization.
But not everyone is pleased
In contrast, Praveen Rikhy, convener of Trade Representatives of ENDS, a body promoting electronic nicotine delivery systems, said: “The government's decision to ban e-cigarettes is ironic and erratic. This ban on e-cigarettes on basis of ‘selective sourcing of scientific and medical opinion’ and without holding a single stakeholder meeting is nothing short of a complete murder of democratic norms."
Not just in India, legislation is also being tightened in other countries. In Singapore, e-cigarettes are outlawed. In Japan, vaping and alternatives such as heat-not-burn tobacco vapourisers are allowed but e-juices with nicotine are not.
In July, China, home to almost a third of the world’s smokers, indicated that it wanted the supervision of electronic cigarettes to be severely strengthened. While New York, recently became the first American state to ban the sale of e-cigarettes.
Few Indians vape at present. The ban, however, cuts off a vast potential market of 1.3 billion consumers for makers of e-cigarettes.
The Association of Vapers India, a not-for-profit organisation that defends the right of tobacco users, said that the government’s move indicates it is more concerned about protecting the cigarette industry than improving public health.
A boost for cigarette makers
The outlawing of e-cigarettes has, however, came as a boon for the traditional cigarette makers.Their
shares surged following the finance minister's pronouncement on Wednesday. ITC — whose cigarette division contributes nearly 50 percent of the total revenue — gained 1.8 percent, Godfrey Phillips India soared 7.8 percent, VST Industries rose 1 percent and Golden Tobacco advanced 4.5 percent by the close of trade on Wednesday.