The parliament on Monday passed the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarette Bill, 2019, paving the way to put a stop to storage, manufacture, distribution, import, export and sale of the device in India.
In Maharashtra, where Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is authorised to take action against suppliers of scented and flavoured tobacco, officials said they will seek the state’s permission to expand their jurisdiction to e-cigarettes.
Electronic Nicotine Delivery System or e-cigarette is a smoking device that operates out of a battery and uses liquid nicotine, propelyne glycol, water, glycerin and flavour to give the feel of smoking a conventional cigarette.
In September, the Union cabinet promulgated an ordinance prohibiting use and sale of e-cigarettes observing adverse health effects of the vaping device. The Bill passed by the Rajya Sabha on Monday will now replace the ordinance. It provides for imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh, or both, to a first time offender.
“The ordinance in September mentioned that police and officials appointed by the state government were authorised to take action against e-cigarette suppliers. In November, we wrote to the state government to authorise drug inspectors to conduct raids and seize e-cigarettes… We will have to check what power FDA holds,” said Pallavi Darade, FDA commissioner in Maharashtra.
With flavoured and scented tobacco banned since 2012, FDA officials in Maharashtra already have a system in place to prosecute offenders. In March, FDA had also issued show cause notices to e-cigarette manufacturers—Verge, Godfrey Philips and JUUL tobacco company— where they found manufacture and storage of e-cigarettes. The case, however, went to the Bombay High Court that stayed on further raids in absence of a law.
Officials said like the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, where subsequent notification authorised FDA to conduct raids, they are hopeful that the government will issue further notification for this Bill too. E-cigarettes have remained a contentious subject with tobacco lobby advertising it as a safe alternate to cigarettes but health experts expressing concerns over adverse impact of the vaping device.
Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, head and neck oncosurgeon in Tata Memorial Hospital, who has been advocating against use of vaping devices, said, “It is a historical moment that Parliament has passed the Bill. It has saved our youth from a devastating habit. It has also sealed the future of cigarette industry.”