INDIA has banned the sale of e-cigarettes after seven people died from vaping-related lung diseases.
The country’s health ministry warned of an “epidemic” among young people as use of “novel” products has “increased exponentially”.
It’s the latest and potentially biggest move against vaping globally as backlash gathers pace.
Flavoured e-cigarettes were banned in New York yesterday with retailers given two weeks to remove the products from their shops.
New York is the second US state to introduce such a ban, after Michigan did so earlier this month, following the deaths of seven people.
There’s been a spike in people being struck down with mysterious and life-threatening lung diseases in the US.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating 380 confirmed or probable cases of the vaping-related illness in 36 states and plus the US Virgin Islands.
Jail for rule-breakers
The Indian prohibition will be imposed through an executive order and will include jail terms of up to three years for offenders.
It was not clear whether the use of such products would be prohibited.
India’s health ministry said: “These novel products come with attractive appearances and multiple flavours and their use has increased exponentially and acquired epidemic proportions in developed countries, especially among youth and children.”
India has 106 million adult smokers, second only to China in the world, making it a lucrative market for companies making vaping products such as US-based Juul and Philip Morris, which manufactures a heat-not-burn tobacco device.
The ban was announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at a news conference, where she showed various types of products to the media, including a Juul vaping device, which resembles a USB flash drive.
Juul had plans to launch its e-cigarette in India and has hired several senior executives in recent months.
Philip Morris also has plans to launch its heat-not-burn smoking device in India.
Both companies have declined to comment.
How safe are e-cigarettes in the UK?
In the UK, e-cigarettes are tightly regulated for safety and quality.
They’re not completely risk free, but they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.
E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke.
The liquid and vapour contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.
While nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes, it’s relatively harmless.
Almost all of the harm from smoking comes from the thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are toxic.
Nicotine replacement therapy has been widely used for many years to help people stop smoking and is a safe treatment.
There’s no evidence so far that vaping causes harm to other people around you.
This is in contrast to secondhand smoke from smoking, which is known to be very harmful to health.
Juul, in which tobacco giant Altria group owns a 35 per cent stake, is already facing government scrutiny in its home market and elsewhere.
In China, Juul said on Tuesday its products were not currently available on e-commerce websites, days after it entered the market.
The ban order needs to be approved by the president before it takes effect, but this is typically a formality.
Less harmful than tobacco
Advocates for e-cigarettes say vaping, which usually involves inhaling a vapour formed from heating up a liquid containing nicotine, is far less harmful than smoking tobacco.
But many tobacco-control activists are opposed to the devices, saying they could lead to nicotine addiction and push people towards consuming tobacco.
More than 900,000 people die each year due to tobacco-related illnesses in India, home to about 1.3 billion people.
The Association of Vapers India, an organisation that represents e-cigarette users across the country, attacked the government’s decision, saying it would deprive millions of smokers of a safer solution to cut back on smoking.
The ban order will impose a jail term of up to one year and a fine of 100,000 rupees (£1,125) for first-time offenders.
The UK versus USA – how vaping compares
TWO chemicals found in two popular vaping flavours could destroy lung function, experts have warned.
Inhaling the popcorn and caramel e-cig liquids could increase a vaper’s risk of respiratory diseases, their findings suggest.
Popcorn flavoured e-cig liquid is especially harmful, thanks to the chemical diacetyl, which has been linked to “popcorn lung”.
In the UK, diacetyl was banned in e-cigarette liquid under the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) in 2016.
So, e-liquids sold in the UK shouldn’t contain diacetyl but if you get your liquid on holiday, you may well find that it includes it.
A repeat violation would attract a jail term of up to three years and a penalty of up to 500,000 rupees (£5,630), the government said.
The ban would apply to the manufacture, import, sale, advertisement and distribution of e-cigarettes.
Such executive orders are typically issued as an emergency measure when Indian parliament is not in session.
The ban order could lapse if it is not approved when lawmakers convene against in the next session of parliament, which will most likely be held in November.
British health experts have also raised concerns over the health risks of vaping – but Public Health England said they are not aware of any similar incidents in the UK.
Vaping has been recommended to smokers trying to quit nicotine – and they’re claimed to be up to 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes.
Public Health England insists that “false fears” over vaping and stopping many smokers from using them.
Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, previously said that although they were aware of the risks, “there is widespread academic and clinical consensus that while not without risk, vaping is far less harmful than smoking”.
MORE ON VAPING
We previously revealed that millions of vapers are at higher risk of heart attack and stroke, with vaping increasing the risk by as much as 71 per cent.
Two popular flavourings – caramel and popcorn – have also been found to destroy lung function.
And in March, a study found that vapers were twice as likely to suffer wheezing and breathing difficulties as non-smokers.
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