Association of Vapers India (AVI), a pan-India advocacy group of vaping consumers, may challenge the Centre’s decision to ban e-cigarettes in court.
Although a final decision has not been taken on this, AVI members have proposed a legal battle, which they feel will bring out several facts about e-cigarettes and how the decision to ban vaping in the country was taken.
“We have lawyers who are our members and we will discuss the legal parameters with them before taking a final call. Opting for a legal solution has been discussed internally, but no decision has been taken,” Samrat Chowdhery, president at AVI told Business Standard.
Recently, two e-cigarettes importers, Plume Vapour and Woke Vapors, filed a writ petition in the Calcutta High Court against the Centre’s e-cigarette ban.
Asked if AVI could become a co-petitioner to the ongoing case, Chowdhery said, “First we need to have a look at the petition they have filed; our goals are different from theirs. We will take a call on this after we finally make the decision on a legal remedy”.
In the past, AVI has legally challenged vape bans in Karnataka, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi.
Meanwhile, with the Centre having passed an ordinance to give effect to the ban, AVI has stepped up its campaigns to promote vaping as a means to quit cigarettes and has been claiming that it is less harmful than cigarettes.
Besides seeking a revoke of the ban, AVI is also demanding that the Centre fixes a cap on the nicotine strength of e-cigarettes and is recommending a maximum of 20 mg of the substance.
The association also wants the Centre to bring in strong regulation to control the quality of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Devices (ENDS) and is demanding a proportionate risk-based taxation system on tobacco.
“The taxation on tobacco should be proportionate to the risk factor. If the form of tobacco consumption has higher health risks, the tax should be higher and similarly, where the risk is lower, the tax should also be lower on that item,” he told Business Standard.
On the other hand, Trade Representatives of ENDS (Trends), a trade body consisting of e-cigarette importers and other stakeholders, is reaching out to Parliamentarians and senior members of government committees to escalate this issue in Parliament.
While running awareness campaigns, Trends is in touch with politicians and members of various committees, asking them to oppose the ban on e-cigarettes.
“We want a detailed deliberation to take place in Parliament when the ordinance is placed to become a Bill. We have already approached the Centre and are in touch with various Parliamentarians across political parties,” Praveen Rikhy, convenor at Trends, told Business Standard.
In the absence of any official data, Trends has estimated the vaping market in India at around Rs 350 crore, which is not even one per cent of the country's tobacco industry. Fewer than 100 traders import vaping devices.
In the writ petition, Plume Vapour and Woke Vapors have claimed that ENDS have no tar content, a negligible amount of carcinogens and entail just 0-5 mg, or about 10 puffs (as compared to smoking a cigarette). Reference has also been made to the review of a report commissioned by Public Health England, which states that cancer potencies of e-cigarettes were largely less than 0.5 per cent those of conventional smoking.
The petition claims that although the long-term hazards of ENDS use are not clearly defined, e-cigarettes are probably close to Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT).
The Centre will file its responses on October 1.
On September 18, the union cabinet had cleared the ordinance which bans e-cigarettes.