According to the Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the cabinet passed a decision making the production, manufacturing, import, export, transport, sale, distribution or advertisements of e-cigarettes a cognizable offence.
The decision was taken, she said due to an alarming rise in vaping among young population. Sitharaman was also heading the Group of Ministers (GoM) that weighed the ordinance to ban e-cigarettes.
According to a draft ordinance, the storage of e-cigarettes shall now also be punishable with imprisonment up to six months or fine up to ₹50,000 or both.
The health ministry has proposed making the production, manufacturing, import, export, transport, sale, distribution or advertisements of e-cigarettes a cognizable offence, punishable with jail up to one year or fine up to ₹1 lakh or both for the first-time offenders, and jail of up to three years and fine up to ₹5 lakh for repeat offenders.
Shares of cigarette makers, already up in today’s session on expectations of such an announcement, gained further on the news. Shares of ITC rose 1.8%, Godfrey Phillips India soared 7.8%, VST Industries were up 1% and Golden Tobacco 4.5%.
E-cigarettes do not burn tobacco, but use a heating element to vaporize liquid nicotine, which the user inhales. These are not licensed in India and are often marketed as products to help smokers quit, and harmless than cigarettes. According to government data, more than 460 e-cigarette brands are available in India, with various configurations of nicotine delivery and in over 7,700 flavours.
Once the ordinance is issued, those holding e-cigarette stocks must declare and deposit stocks with the nearest police station. While a sub-inspector of police will be authorized to search and seize stocks, the central and state governments will be free to designate any other equivalent officer for the same.