India this week moved to ban e-cigarettes in a move that will see illegal use of the products punishable by up to three years in prison for repeat offenses. Separately, a mysterious halt on Juul sales in China comes just days after the devices were introduced to the market. All the while, lawmakers in the U.S. are ramping up the crackdown on vaping.
The prohibition on the products comes as a measure to prevent the use of e-cigarettes among kids, the government said in a statement, citing research that “suggests that these products may act as gateway products to induce non-smokers, especially youth and adolescents.” Under the ban, first-time offenders can receive up to a year imprisonment, a fine of 100,000 rupees (roughly $1,400 as of Wednesday morning), or both. Repeat offenders, however, can receive up to three-sentences, a fine of 500,000 rupees (about $7,000), or both.
“These novel products come with attractive appearances and multiple flavours and their use has increased exponentially and has acquired epidemic proportions in developed countries, especially among youth and children,” the government statement said.
The ban, which was approved Wednesday, will include components such as pods and cartridges, according to India’s Ministry of Health. Storage of e-cigarettes and “like products” will be punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment, a fine of 50,000 rupees (roughly $700), or both. Reuters reported that the order still required formal approval from the president, but added that “this is typically a formality.”
According to Reuters, Juul had recently hired “several” people to fill senior executive roles as it prepared to expand to the market in India. A Juul spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment about the measure. But the news comes as Juul faces tumult in its Chinese market as well.
CNBC first reported Wednesday that the sale of Juul products has mysteriously been halted after being introduced through online retailers Tmall.com and JD.com between September 9 and September 13. Citing a source familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reported that Juul was not provided with any reasoning for the sales suspension.
A Juul spokesperson told Gizmodo in a statement by email that although product sales have stalled, the company will “look forward to continued dialogue with stakeholders so that we can make our products available again.”
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing the more than 300 million adult smokers in China with a viable alternative to combustible cigarettes,” the spokesperson added.
In addition to regulation overseas, Juul has faced increased pressure from U.S. regulatory bodies in recent months as officials grapple with how best to address the rise in the use of e-cigarettes among teens and children. Last week, President Donald Trump announced that regulators will issue guidance in the next “couple of weeks” regarding the sale of flavored e-cigarette products.