The Delhi High Court today directed the Centre to indicate in two weeks the timeframe within which it will put in place regulations to deal with the problem posed by e-cigarettes, which have been banned by several states and Union territories, including the national capital. The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had told the court that e-cigarettes was an emerging threat and nicotine addiction among young people through such devices may lead them to trying conventional tobacco products.
The central government today told the court that it was still “deliberating” on the issue of banning e-cigarettes, prompting a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao to ask for a timeframe within which the regulations would be put in place and implemented. “You (ministry) have been deliberating since 2017. What do you propose to do? It is an important issue with regard to schools and educational institutions. There was a particular timeframe within which it (regulations) should have been put in place,” it said.
The bench warned the central government that if the court was not satisfied by the affidavit, indicating the timeframe, it would be constrained to take action against the officials concerned. With the warning, the court listed the matter for further hearing on September 7. The Delhi government recently told the court that it has initiated steps to completely ban the production, sale and supply of e-cigarettes and steps were being taken to create public awareness.
In an affidavit, the Directorate General of Health Services said preparation of e-cigarettes and e-liquids containing nicotine was contrary to the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Act (DCA). The DGHS had said in the affidavit that only a certain kind of nicotine preparation is allowed under the DCA.
Electronic, vapour, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), e-cigarettes and e-liquids do not fall in the categories of preparations that are allowed under the Act. E-cigarettes are hand-held devices which help to create the feeling of tobacco smoking. Various manufacturers of the device say the e-liquid inside the device heats up when activated and creates an aerosolised vapour which provides a flavour similar to tobacco.
The court was hearing a plea filed by Seema Sehgal, a homemaker, who has sought directions to the governments to formulate a policy and guidelines for advertisements and regulation of sale, production and supply of the product. The plea has sought directions to authorities to inform the public about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes.
It has claimed that e-liquids comprise a solution of liquid nicotine. The petition has said the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003, which governs the tobacco consumption law, does not provide for the use of e-liquids containing nicotine.