Critics say that electronic cigarettes are often marketed as a healthier alternative to smoking but that they still pose significant health risks. They say children are often attracted to the various flavors — like mango or watermelon — and bright colors that vaping products come in, potentially addicting them to nicotine before they pick up their first cigarette.
“The whole idea of e-cigarettes was to reduce smoking, but that’s a farce,” said Anil Purohit, chief executive of the Jodhpur School of Public Health in India. “In reality, it’s drawing kids in and addicting them. The industry has become a sort of fashion, you can buy e-cigarettes in any color or flavor and you see all these young people floating around with these fancy gadgets.”
He added, “By the time kids reach high school, they graduate from e-cigarettes to cigarette use.”
But skeptics doubt that India will be able to implement a ban, particularly in rural areas where smoking is most prevalent. Sixteen of India’s 29 states have banned vaping products, but they are still prevalent in stores and available for purchase online.
“In India, marijuana has been banned for decades, but India is one of the biggest weed users in the world; Delhi and Mumbai have some of the highest weed consumption,” said Samrat Chowdhery, director of the Association of Vapers India, which promotes e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to tobacco.
Mr. Chowdhery said vaping products were like nicotine patches or gum: important tools for those trying to kick a tobacco habit. Any harm caused, he argues, would be negligible compared to the dangers of continuing to smoke cigarettes.
Opponents of a ban say the new regulations would only force e-cigarettes onto the black market, where the products would be harder to regulate. “And we won’t know what’s actually inside these products,” Mr. Chowdhery added.
Praveen Rikhy, the head of Trends, a trade body representing importers, distributors and sellers of e-cigarettes in India, said her group would lobby lawmakers before the November vote. Ms. Rikhy criticized the central government for drawing up the legislation without consulting e-cigarette sellers or manufacturers, saying that vaping products were “the lowest-hanging fruit to go after.”
“Chewing tobacco has not been banned and smoking cigarettes has not been banned,” she said.