E-Cigarettes are being promoted as a heather alternative to cigarettes or bidis. Changing the mechanism of inhaling nicotine does not change the health hazards that an e-cigarette poses. It is as harmful as any other tobacco product. However there are no requisite provisions to ban it under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA).
In India, there are a number of online retailers who sell e-cigarette devices, accessories and liquids. These are purchased online without any restriction, including in states where e-cigarettes are banned. The offline market seems to be less evolved, and these products are not easily available in traditional stores selling tobacco products.
Severity of inclusion of E-Cigarettes in Important Drugs and Tobacco Laws in India
- The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 does not provide any clear classification on usage of nicotine especially in regards to e-cigarettes. Nicotine gums or lozenges are regulated under Chapter IV of the Act. Currently, there is no central legislation concerning e-cigarettes.
- Nicotine gum (2 mg and 4 mg) and lozenges are regulated under Chapter IV of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. Rule 122 (E) of the Act states that any change in the form of the same substance will establish it as a new drug. That makes liquid nicotine, which is used in e-cigarettes, technically a new drug, requiring Drugs Controller General of India approval before it can be launched in Indian markets. The product continues to be imported, distributed, marketed and sold without license or registration.
- As per rule 122 E of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 and Rule 1945, every new drug should be sold in the country with the prior approval of Drugs Controller General of India. Permission to sell lozenges or gums containing less than 2mg nicotine are already given by Drugs Controller General of India. However, nicotine products above 2 mg are supposed to be sold only when prescribed by a registered medical practitioner.
- E-cigarette vial contains about 10 mg of nicotine. At sufficiently high doses, nicotine is associated with poisonings and is potentially lethal.
- Nicotine has been declared as a lethal and hazardous substance under the Environment (Protection) Act and Insecticide Act. It’s only permitted use for human consumption is up to the level of 2 mg in the form of chewing gum or lozenges under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
- Since the e-cigarettes are being sold in the market without permission, this is in contravention of sections 18(b) and 18(c) of Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
- Importing, manufacturing and selling and distributing of drugs without permission from DCGI and without license from the department is illegal and may attract imprisonment of 3 to 5 years.
- Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, supply and Distribution) Amendment Bill, 2015 was withdrawn and a new Bill will be introduced by incorporating provisions to counter illicit trade in tobacco product and to effectively address emerging threats such as ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery System).
Efforts by State Governments and NGOs like Consumer VOICE to ban E-Cigarette
The states of Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Kerala, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Mizoram, Bihar and Maharashtra & Chandigarh (UT) have banned e-cigarettes under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and Food Safety & Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulation, 2011. Selling e-cigarettes has attracted a conviction in Punjab, Maharashtra.
The Union government is likely to ban e-cigarettes following an expert committee’s conclusion that they have cancer-causing properties, are highly addictive and do not offer a safer alternative to tobacco-based smoking products. There are no requisite provisions to ban it under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA).
Consumer VOICE along with its state partners is working towards the Tobacco Intervention throughput India. Through joint efforts with our Tamil Nadu partner in Chennai we were able to sensitize relevant government officials towards ban on e-cigarettes. We both put continuous efforts to convince important stakeholders on the harms caused and how banning will help in the cause of individual and public health. As per the latest news, ban on e-cigarette has been announced by Health Minister Shri C. Vijayabaskar in the state of Tamil Nadu. We have approached Delhi Government similarly for this ban and they are also thinking on the same line.
Our state partners have written to important stakeholders in the states of Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Tripura, Maharashtra etc for banning e-cigarettes and media supported the initiative.
- What is an E-Cigarette? Is it a healthier alternative to cigarette and bidi?
- Pictorial Warning on Cigarettes and COTPA 2003
- Tobacco products still available around Delhi schools despite ban – Consumer VOICE Field Research reveals
- Tobacco – a Menace Among Children
- Consumer VOICE’s Tobacco Intervention Campaign