Govt launches crackdown, sends notices to 15 websites selling e-cigarettes; social media platforms may face action too
Union Health Ministry has issued notices to 15 e-cigarette selling websites and social media platforms are under scrutiny too.
In India, e-cigarettes are strictly prohibited, but even so, some websites have been selling them. And that has forced the government to launch a crackdown against them. Now, the Union Health Ministry has issued takedown notices to 15 such e-cigarette-selling websites. They have been ordered to immediately stop the sale and advertisement of their products.
According to PTI, six more websites are on the lookout list. In addition, the ministry is closely monitoring the advertisements and sale of e-cigarettes on social media and may issue notices in the near future against them too.
"If they don't respond and comply with the law, the health ministry will write to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology for taking down these websites. Legal action will also be taken against these websites accordingly," PTI quoted a source as saying.
The sale of e-cigarettes was stopped under the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Act which came into force in 2019.
The health ministry mentioned that they have identified information relating to online advertisements and the sale of illegal e-cigarettes. This sale is illegal under section 4 of the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Act.
It also added that, "In light of the above, and under section 79(3)(b) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act), and in pursuance of the government notification dated November 15, 2021, the undersigned is hereby authorised to direct you to disable access and or remove any information identified in the enclosed document without vitiating the evidence in any manner".
Following the notice, the online websites were given a deadline of 36 hours to submit their response. According to an official source, only four out of the 15 online websites have responded and ceased their operations. The ministry is still waiting for responses from the remaining websites. If they fail to respond within the given time frame, they may have to face serious charges under the IT Act or Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Act.
Chief secretaries, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, said that e-cigarettes are being made easily available and accessible to students. In response, the ministry issued a public notice in May directing all producers, manufacturers, importers, exporters, distributors, advertisers, and transporters, including couriers, social media websites, and online shopping websites, to produce, obtain, or sell e-cigarettes directly or indirectly.