E-cigarettes, vapes to be banned nationwide as Cabinet brands them a harmful 'style statement' for India's youth

The Cabinet has approved a ban on vaping and e-cigarette devices in a controversial decision, announced by Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in a Cabinet session 18 September. The ban applies to the production, manufacturing, import-export, sale or distribution, storage and advertisement, Sitaraman said, without clarifying outright whether using an e-cigarette or vape is still legal.

The ban, which is not yet in effect, is pending the President's approval and that of lawmakers, both of which will likely take place in a second cabinet session in November. The ban will be imposed through an ordinance, and a legislation on the issue is expected to be introduced during the Winter Session of Parliament.

 E-cigarettes, vapes to be banned nationwide as Cabinet brands them a harmful style statement for Indias youth

File image of finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. PTI

Below is a full transcript of her announcement in Cabinet. 

"What the Cabinet has given approval for today is, first, the decision to ban e-cigarettes, which are also called ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems). What does the ban mean?"

"Production, manufacturing, import-export, or sale or distribution or storage and advertisement relating to e-cigarettes are all banned. The Cabinet has now taken this clear decision to ban e-cigarettes in all these 9 forms. And therefore this decision is taken keeping in mind the impact that e-cigarettes is having on the youth of today."

"The data we have is, of course, largely derived from the US’s experience. The latest statistics I have before me say that there has been an 88.7 percent growth in school students between Grades 10 and 12. Surprisingly, even middle school students have become a victim or taking to e-cigs, and from among those middle school students, the growth in e-cigs is about 48.5 percent."

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"Many science-based journals have already said that ~3 million people in the US are regular users of e-cigarettes. In the last 4-5 years till 2015-16, there has been over 900 percent growth in e-cigarettes. These figures relate to the US. But in India, there have been ground reports that the youth has taken it as — probably, and I’m using it in a very loose fashion, so I don’t want people to say 'Oh, the Minister said this' but it is in some places — people are getting convinced that it is a style statement so people don’t mind trying it."

"But unfortunately, just to give you a background, e-cigarettes got promoted initially as a way people can get out of the habit of smoking cigarettes. It was to be a weaning process from using cigarettes, so that people can get out of the habit of cigarette smoking, if you do this, you can come out of it. But reports say — reports say this, not me — actually many people are no longer using it as a weaning step away from cigarette smoking. They do a bit of cigarette-smoking and a bit of e-cigarette-smoking if they are already smokers. There are some that are probably getting into the habit because it seems 'cool'."

E-cigarettes contain nicotine, an active ingredient in tobacco, but are free from tobacco residue.

E-cigarettes contain nicotine, an active ingredient in tobacco, but are free from tobacco residue.

"Because it seems cool, I want to show how simple and how easy these gadgets are. As a result, it doesn’t take much of an effort. It doesn’t need a matchstick or a lighter in that sense. If e-cigarettes are so well charged like your mobile phone is, this is all you need to carry (NS shows a sample vape kit to the Ministers), and this is a little lead you can use in your computers to charge it. The cartridge they use can be used and thrown away, you can get a fresh cartridge and fill it in. So, its like a pen. The cartridge can be filled in every now and then, or if you’re traveling and don’t think you have the cartridges, you can use it like a disposable ball pen — you use it and throw it away, you can have one more."

"So its become very, very simple. There are several models available in the market, none of which are produced in India. This is also compact, and it is believed there are more than 400 brands, and so far, none of which are manufactured yet in India. Even more important, they come in 150 flavors – chocolate, strawberry, mint and anything else. So it’s become very cool to try it, and to use it. It is odorless, as a result, someone who smokes a cigarette you can smell it even after he/she throws away the cigarette, but with e-cigarettes, you don’t even get the odor."

"But one important aspect is, the smoke which is exhaled by these ENDS and users of e-cigarettes, contains very high levels of nicotine, which for people around who are standing as passive smokers, who probably accidentally, collaterally inhale that will affect them badly too. So the impact of e-cigarettes, even if it appears cool, has already caused a lot of concern in the US and a lot of other countries."

"In the US, as of yesterday, there have been 7 deaths reported directly linked to e-cigarettes.  Of course, the long-term and direct impacts of e-cigarettes is yet to be scientifically established. The 7 deaths in the US has been directly linked with e-cigarettes."

"So the Cabinet, rightly so, thought it’s time we immediately took a decision so the health of our citizens — our young — is not really at risk. The Cabinet has approved this, and advised us to take an ordinance immediately considering the impact of e-cigarettes on the health of people. So there will be an Ordinance, subject to the Rashtrapathi clearing it, and we hope to pass the same in the next session of the Parliament."

There's still a possibility that the ban can lapse — if it doesn't get the approval of lawmakers that gather in the next session, which will most likely be held in November this year.

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Updated Date: Sep 19, 2019 12:35:53 IST