India’s government has announced an immediate ban on e-cigarettes — citing youth-focused public health concerns.
In a news statement following a cabinet meeting today, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the ban covers production, manufacturing, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertising of e-cigarettes.
Sitharaman suggested India’s youth are viewing e-cigarettes as a “style statement,” implying it’s encouraging them to get hooked on nicotine — whereas she noted that companies behind the vaping trend have pitched their products as a way to ween existing smokers off cigarettes.
“This decision is taken keeping in mind the impact that [e-cigarettes are] having on the youth of today,” she said of the ban order. “The data that we have largely is derived from the U.S.’ experience and it the U.S. the latest stats that I have before me states that there has been a 77.8% growth among school students who are at the 10th and 12th level.”
She also pointed to “surprising” growth in e-cigarette use among U.S. middle school students — up 48.5%, per stats she cited.
India has some 106 million adult smokers, making it a major market for cigarette companies of all stripes. But with the e-cigarette ban, vaping startups like Juul are set to be shut out entirely — even as traditional tobacco giants are allowed to continue to operate.
According to the World Health Organization, the use of tobacco in Indian, which includes both smoked and smokeless products, kills close to 1 million people per year.
The ban on e-cigarettes will need formal approval when India’s parliament returns this fall, though this step is typically considered a formality.
Penalties for breaching the ban order include up to one year in jail and a fine of 100,000 rupees ($1,405) for first-time offenders, per Reuters. Repeat violation risks up to three years and a penalty of up to 500,000 rupees. It’s not clear whether users of e-cigarettes will risk any penalties for the act of vaping itself.
India’s ban comes at a time when the U.S. is also preparing to tighten regulation in response to concerns around youth vaping. This month the Trump administration said it’s working on a compliance policy for flavored e-cigarettes that are especially appealing to children.
The U.S.’ CDC public health agency also recently warned against using e-cigarettes — as it investigates a lung condition associated with vaping, following hundreds of cases and a suspected death in August.