Cabinet approves ban on e-cigarettes

India’s cabinet on Wednesday banned the production and import of electronic cigarettes, a public health movement that is seen dashing the expansion plans of companies such as Juul Labs and Philip Morris International.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told a media briefing that an executive order will be passed to ban the products, which the government believes will advance tobacco control efforts in the country.

Sitharaman said e-cigarettes were becoming an increasing health risk as they were being used as a “style statement”, and not as a tobacco cessation product.

In the draft ordinance, the Health Ministry had proposed a jail term of up to one year along with a penalty of Rs 1 lakh against first-time violators. This can go up to imprisonment of three years or a fine up to Rs 5 lakhs for subsequent violations.

The ordinance will need to be approved by parliament when it returns for the next session due in November.

Banning alternative smoking devices like e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn smoking devices, vape, and e-nicotine flavored hookahs was among the key priorities of the first 100 days agenda of the Narendra Modi government in its second term.

The move comes just a week after US President Donald Trump proposed a ban on flavored e-cigarettes.

More than nine lakh people die each year in the country due to tobacco-related illnesses. But India has over 10 crore adult smokers, second only to China in the world, making it a lucrative market for firms such as Juul and Philip Morris.