A DECADE after they were introduced in India, electronic cigarettes face a likely ban in Maharashtra, with the state health department directing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stop their distribution and use. Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Vijay Satbir Singh recently directed FDA Commissioner Harshdeep Kamble to draft a government resolution banning e-cigarettes. “We recently had a discussion with state health department on banning distribution of electronic cigarettes, and we are positive,” Kamble told The Indian Express.
An e-cigarette or an Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS) is a smoking battery-operated device that uses liquid nicotine, propylene glycol, water, glycerin and flavour to give a user the sense of smoking a real cigarette. An e-cigarette’s cost starts from Rs 1,500 and goes up to Rs 7,000.
Health experts have, for some years now, pointed towards recent researches that show cancer-causing properties of e-cigarettes.
“These are newer forms of tobacco that are equally harmful. The market is running unregulated in India since there are no laws on e-cigarettes,” said head and neck oncologist Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi.
According to Kamble, in 2015, the Maharashtra FDA had written to the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) to regularise liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes. If the ban is implemented, Maharashtra will become the second state to prohibit sale and consumption of e-cigarettes after Punjab.
The Punjab government has already secured a conviction against an e-cigarette seller, with a sessions court sentencing a Mohali shopkeeper to three years’ imprisonment under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, for selling e-cigarettes.
Dr P C Gupta, director of Healis Sekhsaria Institute of Public Health, said that laboratory tests on e-cigarettes confirm it releases toxic chemicals.
“There still needs to be a large -cale study to prove the carcinogenic effects of e-cigarretes, but till that happens, we are pushing the government to form some regulations,” he said.
“E-cigarettes have liquid nicotine, which is not a registered drug. We are using that provision to enforce its ban. The notification will be sent to FDA once approvals from Mantralaya come in,” said Dr Sadhna Tayade, joint director at Directorate of Health Services (DHS).
While nicotine in form of chewing gums (2 mg and 4 mg) is registered under DCGI, liquid nicotine —the main ingredient in e-cigarettes —has still not been registered as a drug in India.
Under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, its sale and consumption is illegal in India. The device has, however, been in markets since 2005, with cartridges of liquid nicotine easily available on web portals or paan shops.