TEMPO.CO, New Delhi - India banned the sale of electronic cigarettes on Wednesday, September 18, and warned of an "epidemic" among young people, in the latest and potentially biggest move against vaping globally over growing health concerns.
The ban cuts off a huge market from e-cigarette makers at a time when the number of people smoking worldwide is declining. It could dash the expansion plans of companies such as Juul Labs and Philip Morris International in the country.
"These novel products come with attractive appearances and multiple flavors and their use has increased exponentially and acquired epidemic proportions in developed countries, especially among youth and children," India's health ministry said.
The ban, which also covers the production, import, and advertising of such devices, comes at a time when vaping is facing increased scrutiny in other countries.
The United States last week announced plans to remove flavored e-cigarettes from stores, warning that sweet flavors had drawn millions of children into nicotine addiction.
The Indian prohibition will be imposed through an executive order and will include jail terms of up to three years for offenders. It was not clear whether the use of such products would be prohibited.
India has 106 million adult smokers, second only to China in the world, making it a lucrative market for companies making vaping products such as U.S.-based Juul and Philip Morris, which manufactures a heat-not-burn tobacco device.
The ban was announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at a news conference, where she showed various types of products to the media, including a Juul vaping device, which resembles a USB flash drive.
Juul had plans to launch its e-cigarette in India and has hired several senior executives in recent months. Philip Morris also has plans to launch its heat-not-burn smoking device in India, Reuters has reported.
A spokeswoman for Juul in India declined to comment. Philip Morris did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Juul, in which tobacco giant Altria group owns a 35% stake, is already facing government scrutiny in its home market and elsewhere. In China, Juul said on Tuesday its products were not currently available on e-commerce websites, days after it entered the market.