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Up in smoke: India to ban e-cigarettes but not tobacco

Up in smoke: India to ban e-cigarettes but not tobacco
The Indian Parliament has passed legislation to ban both the production and import of e-cigarettes in the country, though an executive order will be required to bring the prohibition into effect.

The ban is an effort to curb the consumption of tobacco products and their alternatives amid growing public health concerns. Executive orders are used as an emergency measure for when parliament is not in session, and MPs will not retake their seats until November.

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman claimed that e-cigarettes are being used more for stylistic reasons than to actually wean people of smoking altogether. More than 900,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses in India each year, from an adult smoker population of over 100 million. 

While the vaping liquid used in e-cigarettes does not contain the vast majority of the more harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, it does contain a number of other substances which could be harmful to humans. 

Several Indian states have already banned e-cigarettes, though local legislation has largely failed to curb importation through online orders. The move comes just days after US President Donald Trump announced his own plans to ban the sale of vaping products.

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Chewing tobacco is more prevalent than smoking in India but critics of e-cigarettes have raised concerns that vaping is getting children hooked on nicotine from a younger age and acting as a gateway to tobacco smoking. 

India is the world’s second-largest consumer of tobacco products behind China, and is also the world’s third-largest producer of tobacco. 

An estimated 45.7 million people in India depend on the tobacco industry for their livelihood according to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, so the tobacco farmers’ lobby holds sway among the political class, which may explain why the sale and production of tobacco itself will not be impacted when the executive order comes into force.

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