The Union Health Ministry has decided to ban the nicotine inhalers know as e-cigarettes years after the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended their worldwide ban in 2014. A notification banning the electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) is likely to be issued soon as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government's 100-day agenda.
The device that uses a concoction of chemicals including nicotine and flavouring agents are popular among a section of smokers as it does not emit smoke but only invisible vapours. There have been reports that some youngsters use the device for 'vaping' on banned drugs including marijuana.
A notification to this effect is likely to be issued soon, a report in Moneycontrol said citing two unidentified health ministry officials. E-cigarettes are not licensed for sale in India and have made their way illegally into the country, reports say. The product is marketed as an aid to help people quit smoking, e-cigarettes have also been gaining as a lifestyle statement among younger people.
The health ministry wants to ban its manufacture, import and sale in India, which is expected to help raise awareness about the device. "Regulatory measures to prevent the use of e-cigarettes are necessary. They are imported unlicensed products and are found to be widely sold online. The ministry is now considering to ban the product," said a health ministry official.
Government data show that more than 460 e-cigarette brands are available in India, with various configurations of nicotine delivery in nearly 7,700 flavours. However, under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, the government cannot ban these products, but only regulate their sale. Now the government has accepted the suggestion of experts at a drug consultative committee meeting on June 1 that e-cigarettes and similar devices would fall under the definition of "drug" under section 3(b) of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 (DCA), and therefore could be banned.
"ENDS, including e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn devices, vape, e-sheesha, e-nicotine, flavoured hookah, and similar products, are used as a tobacco (especially smoking forms such as cigarettes) cessation product, and functions for nicotine delivery for reasons, including nicotine de-addiction. Hence, these devices and products fall under the definition of 'drug' in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act," the minutes of the meeting said.
The governments of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory of Chandigarh have notified ENDS, or e-cigarettes, as an unapproved drug under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules, 1945, and have begun prosecuting sellers, reports say. Haryana has also declared that "nicotine in its pure chemical form" is "poison" under the Poisons Act. Karnataka, Kerala, Mizoram, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have also issued orders banning the manufacture, distribution and sale of e-cigarettes as an unapproved drug under DCA.
The United States banned e-cigarettes in 2014 and most other countries have already acted on the cue. The central drug regulatory authority wrote on February 22 to all state drug controllers that no ENDS products were licensed.