India has banned the production, sale, import, and advertising of vaping products as part of an initiative to stop the “impact of e-cigarettes on the youth,” the country’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters in New Delhi on Wednesday. Violators will be jailed for up to three years, and fined up to $7,000, the government said. Existing users, however, will not face penalties.
The ban is bad news for American vaping companies like Juul, the world’s largest maker of vaping products with more than 70% of the vaping market. The company had been planning to launch in India, home to more than 106 million smokers — second only to China — by the end of this year. The move could kill India’s thriving gray market for Juul products, where wealthy vapers buy kits for $100 or more. Juul did not respond to a request for comment.
India’s ban on e-cigarettes comes on the heels of a ban on flavored vape products in New York, which, on Tuesday, became the first state in the US to impose one after seven people died and hundreds more fell sick in a nationwide outbreak of lung illness linked directly to vaping. A similar ban that was recently approved in Michigan is also expected to go into effect in the next few weeks.
Sitharaman, India’s finance minister, said that India’s government looked at the skyrocketing popularity of vaping among young adults in the US while making its decision to ban the products in India.
The US has been cracking down on vape use among young people over the last year. The FDA has issued more than 8,600 warning letters and more than 1,000 fines to both online and brick-and-mortar stores for selling vaping products to minors.
And last week, President Donald Trump said that his administration plans to curb the rise of e-cigarettes by banning flavored vape products, something that US health officials believe directly promotes vape use among young adults.
Meanwhile, vaping bodies in India have criticized the ban. The Association of Vapers India (AVI), a nonprofit that advocates for safer tobacco alternatives in the country, called it a “black day” for smokers in India in a press statement, and accused the government of protecting the country’s cigarette monopolies.
“This is a draconian move,” SVI director Samrat Chowdhery said in the statement. “On one hand we talk about transitioning from a developing to a developed nation but on the other we are closing our doors to new technology that has been embraced globally by governments and used by millions worldwide to quit smoking.”