India bans e-cigarettes as vaping backlash grows

A roadside tobacco shop vendor displays an e cigarette in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. (AP)
Updated 18 September 2019

India bans e-cigarettes as vaping backlash grows

  • The Indian ban covers the production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage of e-cigarettes, as well as advertisements

NEW DELHI: India announced on Wednesday a ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes, as a backlash gathers pace worldwide about a technology promoted as less harmful than smoking tobacco.
The announcement by India came a day after New York became the second US state to ban flavoured e-cigarettes following a string of vaping-linked deaths.
“The decision was made keeping in mind the impact that e-cigarettes have on the youth of today,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters in New Delhi.
E-cigarettes heat up a liquid — tasting of anything from bourbon to bubble gum or just tobacco, and which usually contains nicotine — into vapor which is inhaled.
The vapor is missing the estimated 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke but does contain a number of substances that could potentially be harmful.
They have been pushed by producers, and also by some governments including in Europe as a safer alternative — and as a way to kick the habit.
However critics say that apart from being potentially harmful in themselves, the flavours of some liquids have turned millions of children into vapers — and potential future smokers.
The emergency legislation in New York, the second US state to ban flavoured e-cigarettes, followed a mysterious outbreak of severe pulmonary disease that has killed seven people and sickened hundreds.
President Donald Trump’s administration announced last week that it would soon ban flavoured e-cigarette products to stem a rising tide of youth users.
Legislation is also being tightened elsewhere, and in Singapore e-cigarettes are already outlawed. In Japan, vaping and alternatives like “heat not burn” tobacco vaporizers are allowed but e-juices with nicotine are not.
China, home to almost a third of the world’s smokers, indicated in July that it wants the “supervision of electronic cigarettes” to be “severely strengthened.”
The Indian ban covers the production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage of e-cigarettes, as well as advertisements.
The government said it would “advance tobacco control efforts” and “contribute to a reduction in tobacco usage.” Punishments include up to a year in prison.
Although few Indians vape at present, the Indian ban also cuts off a vast potential market of 1.3 billion consumers for makers of e-cigarettes.
“Big Tobacco” has been investing heavily in the technology to compensate for falling demand for cigarettes due to high taxes and smoking bans, particularly in the West.
In 2018 Altria, the US maker of Marlboro and Chesterfield, splashed out almost $13 billion on a stake in one of the biggest e-cigarette makers, Juul.
According to the World Health Organization, India is the world’s second-largest consumer of traditional tobacco products, which are not covered by the new ban, killing nearly 900,000 people every year.
Some 35 percent of adults are users, although chewing tobacco — which can also have flavours like chocolate and which also causes cancer — is more prevalent than smoking.
India is also the world’s third-largest producer of tobacco, the WHO says, and tobacco farmers are an important vote bank for political parties.
According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, an estimated 45.7 million people depend on the tobacco sector in India for their livelihood.
India also exports around a billion dollars worth of tobacco annually, and the government holds stakes in tobacco firms including ITC, one of India’s biggest companies.
“I feel it’s absolutely absurd,” Aronjoy, 22, a student and occasional vaper, told AFP in a shop selling e-cigarettes.
“The government believes from my perspective that it’s alight to smoke cigarettes... which is much more injurious for our health that vaping would be.”
The Association of Vapers India said the government’s move “indicates it is more concerned about protecting the cigarette industry than improving public health.”


China gives Hong Kong leader ‘unwavering support’

Updated 16 December 2019

China gives Hong Kong leader ‘unwavering support’

  • The city’s leader is in Beijing for an annual visit, and is set to meet President Xi Jinping later Monday
  • The past month had seen a lull in the violence and vandalism in the city, after pro-democracy parties won a landslide in local council elections

BEIJING: China’s premier told beleaguered Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Monday that she had Beijing’s “unwavering support” after a huge rally earlier this month and her government’s thrashing at recent local elections.

The city has been upended by six months of massive pro-democracy protests that have seen violent battles between police and hardcore demonstrators, as well as regular transport disruption.

Protesters have called for the unpopular Lam to stand down as leader, but Li Keqiang said Beijing would give “unwavering support” to her government to maintain the “long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong.”

“The central government fully recognizes the efforts you and the SAR (special administrative region) government have paid,” said Li, at a meeting with Lam in the Hong Kong Hall of the imposing Great Hall of People in Beijing.

He said Lam’s government had “tried its best to maintain social stability” amid “an unprecedentedly severe and complicated situation.”

But he also called for the Hong Kong government to “step up studies of the deep-seated conflicts and problems that hinder Hong Kong’s economic and social development” in order to restore calm to the city.

“Hong Kong is yet to get out of its plight. The SAR government must continue its hard work, stop violence and subdue chaos according to laws and restore order,” Li told Lam.

The city’s leader is in Beijing for an annual visit, and is set to meet President Xi Jinping later Monday.

At the meeting with Li, she said she was grateful for the premier’s “care for Hong Kong.”

The semi-autonomous city is ruled under the “one country, two systems” principle, which gives the territory rights unseen on mainland China — rights protesters say are steadily being eroded.

The past month had seen a lull in the violence and vandalism in the city, after pro-democracy parties won a landslide in local council elections.

A week ago, around 800,000 people marched peacefully through the city’s streets, urging the government to respond to their five demands — which include an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for those arrested, and fully free elections.

But public anger remains as Beijing and Lam show no sign of giving further concessions despite the election success.

This weekend the relative calm was broken by clashes between black-clad pro-democracy protesters and Hong Kong police in some of the city’s shopping malls.

And earlier this week an international panel of experts hired to advise Hong Kong on the police response to protests announced they were quitting, saying the watchdog was not fit for purpose “in a society that values freedoms and rights.”