In 2015, we covered how a toxic mix of vested interests and influence within government was protecting tobacco companies while attacking electronic cigarettes and other soft targets. A government spokesperson, referring to vaping’s “adverse affects on health”, said: “it has been decided to completely ban this menace by bringing strong legislation.”
The loss of one million lives is not a scourge, a blight or a tragedy – it is vaping that is a “menace”. So the states of Chandigarh, Maharashtra and Punjab set about banning the sale of ecigs within months and then, six months after that, Punjab also criminalized the online sale of vaping equipment too.
The Punjab state is serious about tackling menaces unless, of course, it is proper crime. As Live Mint writes: “Consider the number of crimes reported under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. There were on average 7,524 instances of crimes related to drugs in Punjab annually between 2005 and 2014. That’s second only to Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. Look at the rate of crime per 100,000 population — Punjab fares far worse than any other state.”
Or reflect upon the Hindustan Times as it explains, “Why Punjab Police can’t cope with crime.” They can’t cope with crime but they can win the World Health Organization’s World No Tobacco Day award for banning the sale of loose cigarettes, loose tobacco and chewing tobacco.
And so it was, as India’s Tribune reported, with Parvesh Kumar, a man whose name resurfaces as his appeal date approaches. Kumar was convicted to three years of “rigorous imprisonment” and a fine under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, plus a one-year of rigorous imprisonment under a different section of the same act.
His crime? Possession of a single vape pen and eight refill cartridges (with intent to supply)! Health Secretary Vini Mahajan greeted the verdict: “Having done well in the field of tobacco control in general, Punjab, with this conviction, has shown the way to the entire country to end the nicotine-delivery devices sold in the form of e-cigarettes.”
The Tribune continues: “Administration Commissioner Hussan Lal said, ‘E-cigarettes have ushered in a so-called ‘no-smoking revolution’, becoming a fad especially among the youth. They are marketed as a healthy substitute to cigarettes. There are a lot of misconceptions about their potential benefits but all this is farce. The most important ingredient of e-cigarettes is nicotine’.”
Clearly a farce, Motherboard’s Rustam Singh attempted to interview Kumar for his thoughts about the appeal but the poor vaper declined to comment. At the original trial, Kumar’s lawyer pointed out that he ran a cookware shop and the vape pen was for his personal use as he sought to quit smoking.
The lawyer told Singh: “There is absolutely no definition or mention of vapes or electronic cigarettes under any Indian penal code, amendment or law. The [state] Drug Controller has clearly exceeded their juridical powers in conducting the raid because e- cigarettes [for personal use] are not banned in India yet.”
POTV hopes the appeal is successful and common sense prevails.