Despite a warning from the Ministry of Health against e-cigarette advertisements, the leading national airline carrier, Air India (AI) has decided to turn a blind eye.
E-cigarettes contain nicotine-based liquid, which vaporizes to mimic the action of smoking.
Even after the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), instructed that the advertisements be removed from the Air Bazaar brochures, AI continues to sell e-cigarettes claiming that they are healthier alternatives to tobacco-based smoking.
The recent brochures, based on the theme of Valentine's Day available on board read: "This valentine love your life. Quit smoking with a better alternative." The airline is selling a UK-based e-cigarette, Lite Joy on a discounted rate of Rs1,200.
The joint secretary of MOHFW, Shakuntala Gamlin on January 24, had written to managing director of AI, Rohit Nandan and Ashok Lavasa, secretary ministry of civil aviation after receiving a complaint from a passenger.
dna has a copy of the letter. It states that the display of the picture with a model smoking an e-cigarette, is in contravention to Section 5, Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003. It further says that these advertisements put the government in an embarrassing position.
A senior scientist, Dr Prakash Gupta, travelling from Mumbai to New Delhi on January 5, was furious after he saw that e-cigarettes were being advertised in the brochure. Dr Gupta complained to MOHFW.
"When I first traveled in January, I happened to browse through the brochure. They were offering new year discounts on e-cigarettes," said Dr Gupta.
To his surprise, when he traveled again this month he came across a fresh set of brochures and realised that AI had not paid heed to the MOHFW's letter.
In addition to advertising on board, this correspondent could access the e-cigarette products advertised in the brochure, through the online portal of Air Bazaar - www.dealsbyava.com until February 12.
Air India officials refused to reply to queries on the advertisements of e-cigarettes.