Cabinet Approves Ordinance to Ban E-Cigarettes, E-Hookahs

Thursday, 19 Sep, 2019

It was not clear whether the use of such products would be prohibited.

Tobacco firms have been investing heavily in the technology to compensate for falling demand for cigarettes due to high taxes and public smoking bans, particularly in the West.

While announcing the ban, Sitharaman showed various types of products to the media, including a Juul vaping device that resembles a USB flash drive.

In May, the health ministry issued a circular urging other departments to hold off on publishing any studies or reports on the e-cigarette market.

They have been pushed by producers, and also by some governments including in Britain, as a safer alternative to traditional smoking - and as a way to kick the habit.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that produce an aerosol by heating a solution containing nicotine which is the addictive substance in combustible cigarettes. Envisioned as a tool to combat tobacco addiction, electronic cigarettes and other vaping products have become a major problem and increase the risk of children taking up smoking, she said.

More than nine lakh people die each year in the country due to tobacco-related illnesses.

Electronic cigarette devices are pictured on display at a vaping shop in New Delhi on September 18, 2019. A recent HC order dismissing a plea seeking protection from an Ordinance, emboldened the Health Ministry to push for the ban.

President Donald Trump's administration announced last week that it would soon ban flavoured e-cigarette products to stem the rising tide of young users.

The products have been criticised worldwide, with the Israel Cancer Association declaring they are "just as harmful" as regular cigarettes, the Guardian reported.

The ordinance proposes maximum imprisonment of up to one year along with a fine of Rs 1 lakh for first-time violators, and imprisonment of up to three years & fines up to Rs five lakh for subsequent offences.

The Cabinet also banned production, export, import and distribution of e-cigarettes.

The Union Finance Minister during the press briefing said the Central government will bring in an ordinance and the matter will be taken up in the Winter Session of the Parliament. He said in a statement on Wednesday Juul had not complied with the request.

But critics say the ban would only create an underground market, pointing to previous failed attempts at prohibition in the country.