The Delhi High Court on Tuesday took strong exception to Centre’s indecision in coming up with regulatory measures on manufacture, import, sale and any kind of trade in e-cigarettes in the country.
A Bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V. Kameswar Rao asked the Centre to indicate in an affidavit a time frame within which the regulatory measures will be brought into place and ‘enforced in letter and spirit’.
“What does the Union of India proposes to do? Some States have guidelines now,” the Bench said adding, “This is an important issue particularly with schools and educational institutions”.
The High Court was hearing a petition filed in public interest by anti-tobacco activist Seema Sehgal, through advocate Bhuvanesh Sehgal, seeking to ban or regulate the sale and use of e-cigarettes.
Though there are no specific guidelines to deal with new emerging threats such as e-cigarettes several State governments and Union Territories have taken steps to prohibit it, the plea said.
Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh have declared e-cigarettes as an unapproved drug under the Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1954 and have commenced prosecutions of its sellers.
Karnataka, Kerala, Mizoram, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have also issued orders banning the manufacture, distribution and sale of e-cigarettes as unapproved drugs.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) had told the High Court that the government was in the process of issuing guidelines on e-cigarettes, dubbing it as a “new emerging threat”.
Terming e-cigarettes or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) as “addictive” and targeted towards young smokers, the Ministry had said the decision was made in the larger interest of public health.
The Ministry said the flavouring agent in e-cigarettes is targeted towards attracting youth to a “new nicotine delivery product”.
“The glamorising marketing techniques of ENDS as less harmful products purely mimics the marketing techniques used by the cigarette industry for slim or low tar cigarettes and are youth-oriented,” the Ministry added.
The Ministry submitted that the chief constituent of e-cigarettes is nicotine, which is addictive.
“It also has a high level of toxicity and can lead to development of cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, have adverse affect on the immune and gastrointestinal systems, risk of miscarriage in pregnant women etc.,” the Ministry said.
“In the larger interest of the public health, [Ministry] is in the process of issuing appropriate guidelines or advisory for regulating, including banning the manufacture, import, sale and any kind of trade in nicotine…or any device such as ENDS or e-cigarettes that enables its use,” the affidavit said.
The court posted the case for further hearing on September 7.