India bans e-cigarettes after warning of vaping 'epidemic'

18 September 2019, 20:40 | Updated: 18 September 2019, 22:12

India has become the latest country to ban e-cigarettes over growing health concerns.

The country's government warned of an "epidemic" in vaping as it followed countries including Brazil and Thailand in prohibiting the products.

India's health ministry said: "These novel products come with attractive appearances and multiple flavours and their use has increased exponentially and acquired epidemic proportions in developed countries, especially among youth and children."

The ban covers the production, importing and advertising of e-cigarettes but not the use of them. Offenders will face up to three years' jail for repeat offences.

It was confirmed on Wednesday that a Canadian high school student was diagnosed with a severe respiratory illness related to vaping, while there have been several deaths in the US linked to the activity.

Christopher Mackie, medical officer of health and chief executive of the Middlesex-London Health Unit in Ontario, said the youth was on life support at one point but has now returned home.

The student had been using e-cigarettes daily, Dr Mackie added.

Around 106 million adults in India are smokers and more than 900,000 die each year due to tobacco-related illnesses.

Vikas Sheel, a senior official at India's health ministry, said: "Over a period of time, people will not get their (vape) refills, so they will become responsible."

The number of smokers in India is second only to China, meaning the ban will cut off a lucrative market at a time when smoker numbers worldwide are falling.

It also calls into question plans by companies such as Juul and Philip Morris to expand in the country of 1.3 billion people.

Both companies declined to comment.

The vapour product market in India was worth $57m (£45m) last year, according to Euromonitor International, which said before the ban that it would likely grow by 60% a year to 2022.

The Association of Vapers India said the government's ban would deprive millions of smokers of a safer solution to cut back on smoking.

But while advocates for vaping say it is safer than tobacco, those against it say it can lead to nicotine addiction for those who did not previously smoke.

In the US, 380 confirmed and probable cases of severe breathing illnesses have been linked to vaping. Six of those people have died.

Doctors say symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, diarrhoea and vomiting.

A survey of 42,000 US students found about 25% of high school seniors said they vaped nicotine in the previous month, up from about 21% the year before, according to the University of Michigan study.