Electronic cigarettes, commonly known as “vapes,” are banned in India by the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage, and Advertisement) Act, 2019. This act completely bans the sale, purchase, production, and
distribution of e-cigarettes, or e-hookah, with or without nicotine. The production and sale of vapes may lead to punishments of up to one year and a
fine, or a fine that may extend to `1 lakh or both, and, for the second or subsequent offence, imprisonment for a term that may extend to three years and a fine that may extend to `5 lakh. In the case of a person who stockpiles vapes, they will be punished for the term which may extend to
six months, and a fine of up to `50,000. E-cigarettes come with attractive appearances and multiple flavours, and their use has increased manifold during the last few years, especially among the youth and children.
There is a huge debate over vaping around the globe. Some of the advocates of e-cigarettes say vaping, which usually involves vapour inhalation of liquid nicotine, is less harmful than smoking tobacco, but many tobacco control activists are opposed to this statement and say that vapes can push the young generation towards nicotine addiction because of their cost, looks, aesthetics, and flavour range. More than 9 million people in India die because of tobacco-related illnesses, and the number can go up manifold if e-cigarettes are allowed in the Indian market, which has a population of around 1.43 billion. The Indian vape market was worth around `57 million in 2018 before the ban and was expected to increase by 60% by the end of 2022, according to Euromonitor International.
Many states are facing a spike in vaping usage, especially by young people. The young generation is also using vaping as a status symbol. In Noida and Delhi, many paan parlours and shops are opening to sell vapes, and not many cases have been registered under the present law for violations of the provisions of this act. I have also noticed the sale of vapes in public areas without any fear of the police. The Mumbai police has done a commendable job in cracking down on the vape industry in the last few months. On 21 February, it seized e-cigarettes and imported cigarettes worth over `30 lakh. The crime branch also raided a few famous paan shops for allegedly selling e-cigarettes.
The police also seized thousands of e-cigarettes in the last three months from different parts of Mumbai, but, clearly, such action seems to be missing in others parts of the country. In Surat, e-cigarettes worth `20 crore were seized, and arrests were made for stockpiling and selling them. I inquired at 20 different paan parlours in Noida and 10 in the Delhi Connaught Place area, and out of these 30 paan parlours, 18 had e-cigarettes, or the owners of shops informed that they could procure them on demand. Most of the e-cigarettes are manufactured in China or European Union countries, and by smuggling via various seaports, they reach India. The cost of these e-cigarettes is around `100, but they are sold at a much higher rate. Smugglers and sellers have huge profit margins, which makes it a lucrative business, and with poor law and order, the risks of arrest are also very low.
E-cigarettes are highly carcinogenic, and as they look like USB drives, hiding them in the pocket is very easy. As e-cigarettes do not require matches or lighters, they are reaching schools and colleges very easily. Many wholesale market vendors, under the guise of perfume, paan, and shoe businesses, are selling e-cigarettes to the people and making a huge profit. The easy access to vapes in local and wholesale markets clearly reflects that we need
to make the implementation of the law more stringent and also make people, police, and market owners’ associations aware of the laws related to