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India’s e-cigarette ban: Online retailers still list them

vaping devices or electronic cigarette on a wooden background. India's e-cigarette ban illustration.

India’s e-cigarette ban came into force this week, but electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) are still listed for purchase by online retailers. 

Vendors such as Amazon and Flipkart continue to offer some devices although others have acted in accordance with the government prohibition. Sites including Vapestop and Litejoy have discontinued trading in the wake of the executive order, which was approved by the Union Cabinet earlier this week. Vendors still offering ENDS have said they will take action to remove such listings in the wake of the ban. 

India’s e-cigarette ban has come under fire from some quarters, with social media users taking to Twitter to query why e-cigarettes were being targeted in lieu of tobacco. India loses one life every eight seconds to tobacco use, which is associated with a heightened risk of a plethora of diseases such as lung cancer.

Announcing the decision, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman argued “e-cigarettes were promoted as a way to get people out of their smoking habits but reports have shown that many people are not using it as weaning mechanism but are addicted to it.” She also asserted that the ban was undertaken “keeping in mind the impact that e-cigarettes have on the youth of today” and as a pre-emptive measure “with regards to health of people.”

Recent reports have highlighted deaths from lung disease believed to be linked to e-cigarette usage. The Indian Council of Medical Research has published a white paper linking e-cigarettes to “DNA damage; carcinogenic, cellular, molecular and immunological toxicity; respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological disorders; and adverse impact on fetal development and pregnancy” and an e-cigarette ban has been endorsed by some health groups. 

Others, however, have argued that e-cigarettes can be of benefit to public health by curbing rates of tobacco use, suggesting that prioritising a ban on e-cigarettes is misplaced. The vaping industry in India has appealed against such a measure, calling instead for there to be regulation of the sector as opposed to a blanket ban on ENDS. 

With vaping now illegal, and crackdowns ensuing in states such as Maharashtra, it is unlikely that the controversy surrounding the issue will be settled any time soon. In the meantime, it is important that resolve does not wane in combating the effects of tobacco use and that the public health scenario be monitored pertaining to the e-cigarette ban, in the interest of the wellbeing of all Indians including youth. 

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