The ban on electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), commonly known as e-cigarettes, has been pushed by the health ministry since 2018.
“If e-cigarettes or ENDS are allowed in India, it will have a devastating effect on tobacco farmers. The main reason is that e-cigarette companies trying to open shops in India are of foreign origin and do not use Indian tobacco. In fact, the countries that these e-cigarettes belong to, such as the US, have also banned them,” the Bharatiya Kisan Union said on Wednesday.
The ban on manufacture, sale, and trading of e-cigarettes reportedly includes penal provisions going up to a maximum of three years in jail, and fine up to Rs 5 lakh for sale, manufacture, and even possession.
E-cigarette makers have criticised the move for being too heavy-handed. “A selective campaign unleashed by the Ministry of Health, which refused to afford even five minutes of time to our 15 representations over two months, is indicative of the pre-meditated moves on this issue,” said Praveen Rikhy, Convenor of TRENDS — the trade body representing importers, distributors and marketers of ENDS in India.
Overall, more than 30 countries have banned these e-cigarettes/ENDS and other countries are planning to ban them. Tobacco growing countries like Thailand, Nepal, Brazil, Mexico, Sri Lanka have also banned ENDS to save the livelihoods of their farmers.
The Federation of All India Farmer Associations (FAIFA) has also said not banning e-cigarettes would be catastrophic for local tobacco farmers.
“Extraction of nicotine from tobacco for products such as ENDS happens largely outside India, from tobacco grown in other countries. It will hugely impact livelihood of Indian tobacco farmers if such products are allowed to carry on business,” FAIFA said on Tuesday.