The Ministry of Finance has directed the customs department to seize import of equipment that facilitates electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) and hand them over to the Deputy Drug Controller for compliance with the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.

The Finance ministry order comes even as the High Court recently quashed an advisory by the Ministry of Health to state governments to prohibit manufacture, distribution, sale (online) of ENDS and other related products unless the same complies with Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.

Earlier, delivering the judgement on a petition filed by Piush Ahluwalia, a smoker, Justice Vibhu Bakhru said the advisory issued by the Central Government urging states to prohibit the sale of Electronic Nicotine Delivery System, is not binding and state governments are at liberty to form its own norms.

Despite the High Court judgement, the Ministry of Finance issued a circular directing all custom authorities to refer import consignments of ENDS including e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn devices, vape, e-sheesha, e-nicotine flavoured hookah and other like devices to the Deputy Drug Controller in their jurisdiction.

The Deputy Drug Controller will clear the consignment after verifying its compliance under Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and rules thereafter. Any violation of the law should be dealt seriously, it added.

Interestingly, the Centre move to restrict use of e-cigarettes comes even as government-owned insurance companies own about 22 per cent stake in ITC, country’s largest conventional cigarette maker. Additionally, another government body Specified Undertaking of Unit Trust of India owns 8 per cent in ITC.

Despite resistance from various quarters, government-owned insurance majors such as LIC, General Insurance Company, New India Assurance and Oriental Insurance cumulatively own 22 per cent stake.