Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday announced that the Cabinet had approved the ban on e-cigarettes, ANI reported. “It means the production, manufacturing, import and export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertising related to e-cigarettes are banned,” she added.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that produce aerosol by heating a solution containing nicotine,which is the addictive substance in combustible cigarettes. The e-hookah too stands banned.

The government will immediately pass an ordinance, and the matter will be taken up in the next Parliament session, the minister said. “E-cigarettes were meant to be a way of weaning away from smoking cigarettes,” Sitharaman added. “Data from the US show many high school and middle-school students are taking to e-cigarettes. In India, e-cigarettes are being seen as a cool style statement.”

Sitharaman talked of studies in other countries that showed the long-term impact on the health of people who smoke e-cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes and other vaping products increase the risk of children taking up smoking, the minister said. “It is believed that there are more than 400 brands, none of which is manufactured yet in India. And they come in over 150 flavours,” NDTV quoted her as saying.

The health ministry floated the proposal to ban the devices in public interest. In a draft ordinance, it proposed imprisonment up to one year along with Rs 1-lakh fine for first-time offenders, and imprisonment of three years with a penalty of Rs 5 lakh for subsequent offences.

In August 2018, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had issued an advisory to state governments to stop the manufacture, sale and import of electronic nicotine delivery systems, or ENDS, including e-cigarettes, vape, e-sheesha, e-nicotine-flavoured hookah, and heat-not-burn devices. The ministry’s advisory came a week after the Delhi High Court ordered it to take regulatory measures to control the sale of e-cigarettes.

Punjab, Karnataka, Mizoram, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have already prohibited the sale, manufacture, distribution and import of such devices.

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Productivity bonus for railway employees

The Union Cabinet also approved a bonus for railway employees “for maintaining industrial peace and motivation of railwaymen”.

Javadekar said it would benefit more than 11.52 lakh railway employees, who will also get a bonus equivalent to 78 days of wages. It is meant for non-gazetted railway employees. Railway Protection Force and Railway Protection Special Force staff are excluded.

Javadekar called the bonus “a reward for productivity”, and said it would help the government maintain high levels of motivation among railway personnel. The “productivity bonus” will cost the government Rs 2,024.40 crore, the minister added. This is the sixth straight year railway employees will receive this bonus.

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