In a coordinated, citywide crackdown on e-cigarettes, the crime branch control unit (CBC) of the Mumbai Police on Thursday conducted simultaneous raids at 11 locations in Mumbai, arresting 12 e-cigarette vendors and seizing contraband worth over Rs 14 lakh.
According to CBC officers, the raids were the culmination of an eight-day-long operation, during which information about people illegally selling e-cigarettes was collected and verified. Also known as 'vapes', e-cigarettes are banned for sale, purchase and use in India under the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Act 2019. “We had received information about several people who were selling e-cigarettes in their shops.
“While working on this information, we also learned that one person was selling them through his Instagram account. Accordingly, we planned a two pronged operation,” CBC in charge, police inspector Nitin Patil said.
Subsequently, on Thursday, teams were deployed civil clothes at major markets like the Crawford Market, Nagpada, Heera Panna shopping centre in Tardeo, Link Square Mall on Carter Road and the Pali Naka market in Bandra, 14th Road in Khar, Lokhandwala in Andheri and Bangur Nagar in Malad.
Simultaneously, the police also contacted the online vendor through a dummy customer and placed an order for 100 e-cigarettes, asking him to come to Nagpada with the goods. As soon as he showed up, the call went out and all the other markets were raided at the same time. “We seized a total of 2030 e-cigarettes worth Rs 14.60 lakh, along with 963 boxes of scented tobacco and 53 bottles of refilling liquid.
Three of the shops we raided were also selling e-cigarettes to minors when we conducted the raids. They were additionally charged under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act,” Patil said. The accused were subsequently handed over to the police stations concerned for further investigations.
Officials said that due to the prevailing misconception that e-cigarettes are a 'healthier' option, a large number of young people have been gravitating towards them, and the crackdown is likely to continue in the days to come.