The Indian government said it would ban e-cigarettes to protect its youth, echoing a similar ban planned by President Donald Trump in the US. The move was a blow to vaping advocates and the product's manufacturers.
India's government announced on Wednesday that it would ban the manufacture, import, sale, advertisement and distribution of e-cigarettes.
The move came just days after the US said it planned to ban flavored e-cigarettes, amid rising concern over youth consumption and lung illness, as well as deaths linked to the products
E-cigarettes have been marketed as safer than cigarettes, as they heat up a flavored liquid into vapor for inhalation. The vapor excludes some 7,000 chemicals that currently exist in tobacco smoke, but it does contain a number of substances that could potentially be harmful, critics say.
An Indian government statement blasted the product, saying its use had "increased exponentially" and acquired "epidemic proportions in developed countries, especially among youth and children," a government statement said.
"The decision was made keeping in mind the impact that e-cigarettes have on the youth of today," Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters in New Delhi.
The ban would need to be approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to go into effect, but it is expected that he will sign it.
The new law would forbid the manufacture, import, sale, advertisement and distribution of e-cigarettes, rather than their use. Those making or selling e-cigarettes could face fines of up to 100,000 rupees ($1,390) for a first offense, and either a larger fine or even a prison sentence for repeat offenses, the government said.
It also represents a blow to e-cigarette manufacturers, such as US-based Juul and Phillip Morris, who were hoping to tap into a market of some 106 million adult smokers.
India is the second-largest market for cigarette smoking in the world, after China.
Vaping advocates reject ban
The Association of Vapers India, which represents e-cigarette users across the country, denounced the government's decision.
They argued that doing so deprives millions of smokers of a safer solution to reducing cigarette consumption. Advocates for e-cigarettes maintain that vaping is far less harmful than smoking tobacco.
In India, more than 900,000 people die each year of tobacco-related illnesses.
jcg/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)