The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed the AAP government to urgently look into the matter of regulating the sale and consumption of e-cigarettes and termed it an "e-burning issue" as damage was being caused to children who have started consuming these products.
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar questioned the Delhi government as to what it was doing for the last one year since it had informed the court that it was initiating steps to ban e-cigarettes, and whether the authorities were looking into the matter or not.
"Are you doing something? look the damage it is causing to our children. Is anyone looking at this matter... See the urgency. Look at the content of nicotine in them... It is an e-burning issue," the bench said.
The court, which was hearing a plea seeking to regulate the sale and consumption of e-cigarettes, was informed by the petitioner's counsel that now-a-days, school children have started consuming e-cigarettes which also contains nicotine.
To this, the court asked the Delhi government counsel Sanjoy Ghose to file an affidavit through the chief secretary detailing the steps taken by it for formulating a policy to ban e-cigarettes.
The Delhi government had last year informed 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.
Mr Ghose told the court that it was in the process of banning it and he will convey the court's concern to the authorities.
E-cigarettes are hand-held devices which help to create the feeling of tobacco smoking. Various makers 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 government to formulate a policy and guidelines for advertisements and regulation of sale, production and supply of the product.
During the hearing, her counsel told the court that there is no health warning/ advisory given on the packing of e-cigarettes and there should be some regulation to govern it as it causes health problems.
He added that there is no data to show that e-cigarettes, which comes in flavours like mango and strawberry are better that the normal ones and helps in quitting smoking.
The counsel said 15 states have already banned the production and sale of e-cigarettes and in Delhi, e-hookahs are available in various flavours in lounges here.
In an affidavit, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), which comes under the Delhi government's Health Department, had told the court that preparation of e-cigarettes and e-liquids containing nicotine was contrary to the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act (DCA).
The DGHS 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.
"Therefore, the trade, commerce, production, supply and distribution of these substances would be prohibited under the DCA," it said.
Earlier, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had told the court that nicotine addiction through e-cigarettes among young people may lead them to try conventional tobacco products and it was considering a ban on the item.
Though there are no specific guidelines to deal with new emerging threats such as ENDS or e-cigarettes (ECs), several states and Union territories have taken steps to prohibit them, it had said.
The plea has sought directions to authorities to inform the public about the harmful effects of the 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.
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