Last Summer, the Union Health Ministry had prepared the Prohibition of E-cigarettes Ordinance 2019, which was sent to the Cabinet for review. This measure proposed setting in place a maximum imprisonment of up to one year alongside a penalty of Rs 1lakh ($1,400) for first-time violators. While repeat offenders could face up to three years of jail and a penalty of Rs 5lakh ($7,000).
A bill replacing this ordinance was passed in January. The reviewed version bans the production, trade, transport, storage and advertisement of electronic cigarettes across India but excludes personal consumption. Despite this, vapers visiting India are having their devices confiscated at airports.
NNA: The Indian Civil Aviation Ministry has clearly misunderstood the country’s law
The NNA has become aware of multiple cases of travellers suffering from this unsanctioned action, and is pointing out that the Indian Civil Aviation Ministry has clearly misunderstood the country’s law. To this effect, the organization has asked the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to get in touch with the relevant Indian authorities, clarify the situation and update travel advice accordingly.
“E-cigarettes are a proven safer alternative to smoking and the UK boasts 1.9 million former smokers who have converted from smoking to exclusively vaping instead. Confiscating products which have a successful track record of diverting smokers away from combustible tobacco is crazy. Their only other option in India is combustible cigarettes, and the Indian Government owns 28% of one of the country’s biggest tobacco companies,” said NNA Chair Martin Cullip.
“Health groups in the UK, including the NHS, rightly support tobacco harm reduction. Public Heath England also backs vaping and the Royal College of Physicians urges wide promotion of e-cigarettes to reassure and encourage smokers to use them, as does the government’s own Tobacco Control Plan. The Government’s Science and Technology Committee recommended wider acceptance of vaping as an option to switch from smoking in August 2018.
“India welcomes 850,000 visitors from the UK each year and current statistics dictate that around 6 per cent of those will be vapers. That is around 50,000 who could be affected simply for following advice to switch to e-cigarettes on the advice of public health authorities in this country”.
“It is not up to the UK to dictate how India chooses to treat e-cigarettes”, said Cullip, “However, it is important that UK travellers are aware of the reception they might receive if they fly to India. We have written to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office saying that it is imperative UK citizens are aware of situations such as this in order that they can make informed decisions about whether to travel to India. Our letter asks the FCO to clarify the law with the Government of India and to update their advice to travellers accordingly.”
What can you do?
The NNA is also urging interested parties to do their part by contacting either the FCO if they are back in the UK, or one of the UK’s High Commission offices if in India.