With the Incremental upsurge in the usage of Electronic Cigarettes and Vapes among Youth in the past years, the Government of India responded by banning the same in 2019, through the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Act 2019. The ban was based on the recommendations of the Indian Council for Medical Research, the top body for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research. Further, the Government claimed that the objective of the ban was to protect the Youth, one of the most vulnerable and impressionable sections of Society.
Countries over the years have implemented a variety of regulatory procedures to carry out these actions, including designating e-cigarettes as products containing tobacco, banning sales to underage consumers, outlawing usage in public areas, and setting limits on the quantity of nicotine that is permitted in e-cigarettes.
For instance, the Tobacco Products Directive of the European Union mandates that manufacturers of e-cigarettes limit the nicotine dosage to twenty mg/ml. Additionally, e-cigarettes must come with required health warnings informing users that they contain nicotine and shouldn't be used by those who don't smoke. India, with this legislation, completely outlawed the same and this triggered several speculations about whether the Ban was successful in the Objective and whether it was even a good move, to begin with.
Banning The Fumes: The Prohibition Of Electronic Cigarette Act, 2019
At the very outset, Section 2 of the Act declares that The Union must oversee the e cig enterprise because it is in the interests of the public to do so. With the Legislation clearly stating that its very purpose is to prohibit the production, manufacture, import/export and sale of electronic cigarettes along with its aim at protecting public health, several definitions ranging from advertisement, sale, distribution to persons and place have been given out lucidly, hence removing ambiguity.
The Section 3(d) defines an E-Cigarette as “an electronic device that heats a substance, with or without nicotine and flavours, to create an aerosol for inhalation and includes all forms of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, Heat Not Burn Products, e-Hookah and the like devices, by whatever name called and whatever shape, size or form it may have”. To prevent a clash with the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940, it excludes the products with Nicotine which have been licensed by the latter Act.
In terms of the Punitive measures employed, the Act takes no prisoners as Section 7 gives out an Imprisonment of one year or a hefty fine of one lakh and with increased punishment of Three Years and a five-lakh fine if the offence is repeated. The Act stipulates in Section 5 that people who keep the devices must make a list of the inventory of electronic cigarettes they have and promptly deliver the stock, as listed to the authorised officer's department the closest to them.
Otherwise, the Offender, with regards to Section 5, would face imprisonment for up to six months. Even the Firms are also liable, if a violation of the Act is reported, then not only will the company be held accountable for the offence, but also every individual who oversaw and was in control of the company's operations at the time the offence was committed.
Also, any site where any e-cig business is conducted or even where electronic cigarettes are created, supplied, distributed, stored, or transported may be searched and inspected by the Authorized Officer upon reasonable doubt. This Act additionally provides for the use of good faith as a defence in which no claim, lawsuit, or other civil proceedings is brought against with the Central and State Government.
Suffocated By The Vapours: How The Ban Counteracted
After the ban was put into effect, established market participants like Juul and Vape withdrew, leaving a vacuum in the cigarette industry. This gap was then filled by cheap imports from other nations, including China, and by inferior goods sold for astronomically low costs. In addition to drawing customers, being inexpensive also raises concerns about a lack of quality, which fully undermines the Act's main goal.
Clinical investigations conducted all around the world demonstrate that vaping facilitates smoking cessation at a rate that is almost twice that of conventional nicotine replacement therapies like gum and patches. This is a generally acknowledged and expanding viewpoint. But that's not all. Additionally, vaping has been linked to a decrease in combustible cigarette sales all around the world. It simply means that it works well as a help for quitting smoking.
According to The Daily Express of London, UK specialists studying vaping devices have come to the conclusion that these items should be prescribed in order to aid millions of people in quitting smoking. This is a big development; people who oppose the ban sent the reports to India's Health Ministry. Soon, the prescriptions would begin. Thus, England would become the first country in the world to recommend electronic cigarettes that had a medical product authorization.
Once it was realized, countries began reversing the bans or lifting the excess restrictions. However, India remains the only country with a complete ban, however, it has not worked. Instead, counter-reaction was observed. There is also an implementation issue with the Act, as the said electronic devices are also available at any regular ‘paan’ shop.
“It is difficult to enforce regulations as Nicotine is available in all other forms. Formal players making e-cigarettes are exiting the market. Once the black-market industry gains a foot over, it will be impossible to get control over it.” - one seller, who did not wish to be named, told Business Insider.
An objective, rational approach is required in India's heated tobacco debate. It has to be understood by the officials. India is still unable to comprehend. The most populated country in the world has chosen a top-down intervention strategy that uses rules to force behavioural change. It won't work; it isn't working. In reality, it will only cause greater harm, despite people's best efforts to get around the restriction by engaging in riskier behaviours like purchasing inferior goods or commodities from the illicit market.
Indians are overly dependant on tobacco. Even worse, about a third of people are dependent on tobacco in some way. As a result, there are roughly 14 lakh deaths, which is practically the whole population of Ranchi or Jabalpur. The World Health Organization (WHO) also claims that among people aged 35 and older, diseases linked to tobacco smoking account for an astounding $27.5 billion in annual losses.
In order to determine potential risks and inform policymaking, India must start its investigations, particularly into the use of e-liquids, and it must also assist the development of standards for Indian smokeless tobacco, which, regrettably, do not yet exist. India has to separate nicotine from smoking since the risks associated with both are very different. The WHO has authorised the long-term use of pharmacological cessation therapy and intends to add them to the list of essential medications. These therapies also include nicotine.
India must understand that striving for relative damage reduction is important. And it must be completed no matter what. Why? Global research indicates that vaping may reduce adult smoking-related mortality and that using e-cigarettes may enhance the likelihood of quitting smoking. It is imperative that smokers be at the forefront of policy development. India implemented the prohibition without consulting the relevant parties. The exchanges should have taken place before the vaping sector could inform Health Ministry bureaucrats of what they are doing to assist smokers in making safer decisions.
Views are personal.
 The Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Act, 2019, NO. 42, Acts of Parliament, 2019
 European Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), B.M.J Journals, Volume 31, Issue II
 Punishment for contravention of section 4
 Prohibition on storage of e-cigarettes
 Nicotine vaping in England: 2022 evidence update summary, GOV.UK, 2022, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nicotine-vaping-in-england-2022-evidence-update/nicotine-vaping-in-england-2022-evidence-update-summary
 Tobacco, WHO India, https://www.who.int/india/health-topics/tobacco