India has reportedly banned the sales of e-cigarettes as US health inspectors investigate a series of deaths linked to vaping. Reuters reports that an executive order prohibits selling, producing, importing, or advertising e-cigarettes.
First offenders could receive up to one year in prison and a 100,000 rupee ($1,400) fine; later violations could cost up to three years and 500,000 rupees. The ban doesn’t apply to actually using e-cigarettes — but it means users can’t legally buy refills for their vapes.
The government has been weighing a ban for years, despite concerns over the legality of stopping imports, and Reuters reported on a draft of this week’s order back in August.
A spokesperson from 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.”
According to the Reuters reports that India’s health ministry expects its ban to be challenged in court, and supporters of vaping in the country have warned that a ban will deprive smokers of a potentially less dangerous alternative.
While Research has suggested that vaping is indeed safer than smoking cigarettes, but the full risks remain unknown — and regulators are being forced to decide whether the device’s benefits for existing smokers outweigh the danger of e-cigarettes becoming a gateway drug to tobacco use.