India has announced a sweeping ban of e-cigarettes within its borders. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stated during a news conference, “Considering the seriousness of the impact of e-cigarettes on the youth, the cabinet has approved an ordinance to ban e-cigarettes.” The ban applies to the manufacture, import, sale, advertisement and distribution of e-cigarettes.
India’s cabinet will ban the devices with an executive order. Executive orders are used when its parliament is out of session. Lawmakers will have to reauthorize the ban when it reconvenes in November. The ban order also needs to be approved by the president before it takes effect.
The ban will include jail terms for offenders. According to draft documents of the ban, first-time offenders would be sentenced to a jail term of up to one year and a fine of 100,000 rupees ($1,404). A repeat violation would result in a jail term of up to three years and a penalty of up to 500,000 rupees. It was not clear whether the use of such products would be prohibited.
The Association of Vapers India attacked the government’s decision, saying vaping is far less harmful than smoking tobacco. The association claims the ban would deprive millions of smokers of a safer solution to cut back on smoking. The government expects the ban order to be challenged in court, but is prepared to defend its decision.
According to data from World Health Organization, India has the world’s second largest smoking population, after China, with nearly 100 million adult smokers. Roughly 1 million people die annually from smoking-related causes. Data from Euromonitor International shows that India’s vaping-products market was valued at $57 million in 2018. Before the ban, the research group estimated the Indian market would grow by nearly 60 percent a year up to 2022.
India’s ban comes at a time when vaping is facing increased scrutiny in other countries. The devices face widespread crackdown in the U.S., which announced plans to remove flavored e-cigarette products from stores last week. India’s ban follows China delisting vaping product leader Juul’s offerings from two of its major e-commerce sites.