Govt bans production, import of e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes, Image source: IANS

New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved an ordinance to ban production, import, distribution and sale of electronic cigarettes, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

Sitharaman, who had headed a Group of Ministers (GoM) on the issue, said the Cabinet decided to ban e-cigarettes and similar products as they pose a health risk to people, especially the youth.

The Health Ministry has proposed maximum imprisonment of up to one year along with a penalty of Rs 1 lakh against first-time violators, and a jail term of up to three years and a penalty of Rs 5 lakh for repeat offenders.

Banning alternative smoking devices like e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn smoking devices, vape and e-nicotine flavoured hookahs was among the key priorities of the first 100 days agenda of the Modi government in its second term.

The ordinance will likely be replaced with a bill in the next session of Parliament. Once the Parliament approves the bill, the proposed ban on such products will get legal backing.

Trade representatives promoting e-cigarettes and a consumer body have questioned the need for rushing through an ordinance to ban such devices in the country and have accused the Centre of trying to "bypass the judicial system" after the Delhi and Bombay high courts stayed the government's move to ban vapes.

Those supporting e-cigarettes are arguing that they are less harmful than smoking tobacco while the government is seeking to ban them contending that they pose health risks similar to those caused by conventional cigarettes.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended a "complete ban" on ENDS, saying their use can initiate nicotine addiction among non-smokers also.

(With inputs from PTI)