As the Centre gears up to impose a ban on e-cigarettes, the Delhi government is facing questions from the High Court over what actions it is taking to regulate the devices.
Terming the matter “an e-burning issue”, the two-justice bench of Chief Justice D. N. Patel and Justice C. Hari Shankar queried “are you doing something? Look at the damage it is causing to our children. Is anyone looking at the matter?” The court cited the fact that the AAP-led Delhi government stated the previous year that it was taking steps to ban e-cigarettes and ordered an affidavit to be filed through Chief Secretary Vijay Kumar Dev, detailing what prohibitionist policies are being formulated by the capital government.
The bench was responding to a petition by Seema Senghal, who asserted that schoolchildren in the capital were purchasing and using the products. As they contain nicotine, an addictive substance, Senghal sought that e-cigarette consumption and sale be regulated.
Responses were requested from both the Centre and the Delhi government, with the Centre telling the High Court that it had already directed state governments to ban electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and so the matter falls within their remit. The Centre did issue an advisory in August last year. States including Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh followed suit and banned ENDS within their respective jurisdictions.
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) also weighed in, stating in an affidavit that e-cigarettes are classified as ‘drugs’ under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. As a form of nicotine delivery, ENDS are not permitted. Therefore, the DGHS said, their “trade, commerce, production, supply and distribution of these substances would be prohibited” under the Act.
Sanjay Ghose, the Delhi government’s counsel, told the High Court that it would inform the relevant authorities of the concerns raised. Whether the Delhi government will move to follow other states and ban ENDS will be observed in the coming weeks.