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.”


Anger over EU’s ‘historic mistake’ on Skopje, Tirana

Updated 26 min 1 sec ago

Anger over EU’s ‘historic mistake’ on Skopje, Tirana

  • A handful of countries led by French President Emmanuel Macron again blocked membership talks for North Macedonia and Albania
  • EU Council President Donald Tusk told reporters he felt ‘really embarrassed’ but urged the two countries not to lose heart

BRUSSELS: The EU has made a “historic mistake” that risks destabilising the Balkans, senior officials warned Friday, after a handful of countries led by French President Emmanuel Macron again blocked membership talks for North Macedonia and Albania.
There was widespread frustration and disappointment, particularly among eastern European countries keen to broaden the EU club, at the failure of the 28 leaders to agree to start formal accession negotiations with Skopje and Tirana.
Leaders were deadlocked after some seven hours of heated backroom wrangling at a Brussels summit, with France alone in rejecting North Macedonia but joined by Denmark and the Netherlands in refusing Albania.
“It’s a major historic mistake and I hope it will only be temporary and won’t become engraved in the collective memory as a historic mistake,” European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said.
Johannes Hahn, the European commissioner who has led efforts to push the two countries to reform to fit EU norms, said it had left the bloc’s credibility damaged “not only in the Western Balkans but beyond.”
“This is a matter of extreme disappointment,” he tweeted.
“To refuse acknowledgement of proven progress will have negative consequences, including the risk of destabilization of the Western Balkans, with full impact on the EU.”
North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski urged his people to push on with reform despite the disappointment, while his Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov urged the EU to come clean about its true intentions.
“If there is no more consensus on the European future of the Western Balkans... the citizens deserve to know,” he tweeted.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU leaders would look again at the matter before a summit with Western Balkans leaders in Zagreb early next year.
The summit deadlock came days after EU ministers hit a similar impasse at talks in Luxembourg — following two earlier delays by EU countries on making a decision.
Apart from France, all the other EU states accept that North Macedonia has made enough progress on reforms — including changing its name from Macedonia to appease Greece — to start talks.
But Albania has less support, with the Netherlands and Denmark joining France in voicing serious reservations about its efforts against corruption and organized crime.
Austrian Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein said the summit failure was “extremely regrettable.”
“I have spoken to the two prime ministers to express my great disappointment, and they are also extremely disappointed,” she told reporters in Brussels.
“This is not a good sign for the solidarity of the EU or the stability of the region.”
EU Council President Donald Tusk told reporters he felt “really embarrassed” but urged the two countries not to lose heart, saying he had “absolutely no doubt” they would one day join the bloc.
“Both countries, they passed their exams, I can’t say this about our member states,” Tusk said.
The European Commission has said both countries have done enough to at least begin talks, but Macron now says this should not happen until the whole accession process has been reformed, arguing that it does not work properly.
But diplomats suspect the French are playing tough for domestic political reasons linked to immigration, and there is frustration that Macron appears to be trying to move the goalposts.
“These countries deserve it, they fulfil the criteria, the momentum is right,” said one diplomatic source.
“It’s not fair to change the rules of the game in the middle of the game.”
Another said “there’s no logic to it. It’s incoherent — an excuse.”
After the earlier failure in Luxembourg another diplomat accused France of “repeating the same stupid arguments again and again,” warning Paris would bear “responsibility for the consequences of this.”
Politicians in North Macedonia and Albania have warned that their people’s patience with the EU is not unlimited and repeated rejections risk emboldening nationalist and pro-Russian forces.