Skip to main content

Post-advisory, Govt of India appears reluctant to ban e-cigarettes, "harmful" to kids

By Rajiv Shah
Is the Government of India dilly-dallying over the issue of banning e-cigarettes, which have been declared by anti-tobacco activists across the world as providing “an entryway to nicotine addiction”, especially among the kids? It would seem so, if the latest developments are any guide.
Indeed, Four-and-a-half years after India showed some “intention” to ban e-cigarettes, considering them as risk to public health, especially among the non-smoking youths, following the World Health Organization (WHO) in August 2014 seeking “stiff regulation” on it across the world, its “booming” $3 billion global market appears all set to dangerously invade India.
The Union ministry of health and family welfare, in October 2014 had called e-cigarettes, which use battery-powered cartridges to produce a nicotine-laced vapor, a “backdoor entry” to health risk, because has nicotine, pointing out that expert panels have already recommended regulation or a ban.
The ministry view came after e-cigarettes, imported and sold by small firms, began being sold by India’s largest cigarette maker, ITC. Meanwhile, over more than four years, they are available on online stores, including on Amazon India, Electronic Cigarette India and Vapour India.
In fact, four-and-a-half years on, all that the Government of India (GoI), instead of banning the product, has done is to issue a feeble advisory on August 28, 2018 to all states to consider banning e-cigarettes, which it said, should be done “in larger public health interest” and in order to “prevent the initiation of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) by non-smokers and youth with special attention to vulnerable groups”.
The advisory insisted, the states should do this to “ensure that any ENDS, including e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn devices, vape, e-sheesha, e-nicotine flavoured hookah, and the like devices that enable nicotine delivery are not sold (including online sale), manufactured, distributed, traded, imported and advertised in their jurisdiction.”
It added, this was necessary because “there are possibilities that children, adolescents & youth (and generally non-smokers) will initiate nicotine use through ENDS at a rate greater than expected if ENDS did not exist; and that, once addicted to nicotine through ENDS, such children, adolescents & youth are likely to switch to cigarette smoking.”
Following the advisory, while several states – including Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Mizoram and Maharashtra — have banned e-cigarettes under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and Food Safety & Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulation, 2011, GoI appears reluctant to take things forward.
In a clear indication that it would not like pursue a blanket ban to save non-smoking youths from a new health hazard, Vikas Sheel, joint secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare merely tweeted about the harms the e-cigarettes can cause on January 31, suggesting its effectiveness is still not “proven.”
He said, “Effectiveness of e-cigarettes as cessation aides as compared to other nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) tools is not proven. Such claims are marketing propaganda of the ENDS companies to use these gateway products for initiating youth on nicotine addiction.”

Industry campaign  

Meanwhile, industry campaign for introducing e-cigarettes, despite clear harm it may cause to the youth, has picked up. Among others, Dr KK Aggarwal, president of the Heart Care Foundation of India, and past national president, Indian Medical Association, has stated that the ENDS are “far less harmful than conventional cigarettes”.
He says, “Tobacco harm reduction means action taken to reduce the health risks associated with the use of tobacco or nicotine. It involves the use of non-combustible products such as vaping ones like e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products or smokeless tobacco. These products are collectively called Alternative Nicotine Deli­very Systems (ANDS) and do not involve burning of tobacco leaf or smoke inhalation.”
The senior doctor quotes a UK parliamentary inquiry into e-cigarettes reported on August 17, 2018, which stated that “e-cigarettes present an opportunity to significantly accelerate already declining smoking rates, and thereby tackle one of the largest causes of death in the UK today. They are substantially less harmful -- by around 95 percent -- than conventional cigarettes.”
This contradicts the WHO view, which has expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of ANDS as effective tools for quitting, pointing out that, “with almost 8,000 different flavours added, including fruit and candy-like flavours, there is legitimate concern that instead of reducing the number of smokers, they will actually serve as a gateway to nicotine addiction, and ultimately, smoking, particularly for young people”.
However, says Dr Aggarwal, the organization he heads, the Heart Care Found­ation of India “feels that, based on available evidence, using e-cigarettes is less harmful than smoking cigarettes though the health effects of its long-term use are not known.”
Even as GoI is failing to take any decision in the matter, new, dangerous signals have come from the US. Juul Labs Inc has reportedly revealed its plan to launch its e-cigarette products in India by late 2019. The report follows Uber India executive Rachit Ranjan joining as senior public policy strategist with Juul, and India-based Mastercard executive Rohan Mishra as head of its government relations.
The report says, Juul plans to hire at least three more executives, including an India general manager, LinkedIn job postings showed. It also plans “a new India subsidiary”, according to one posting.
Juul’s sleek vaping devices, which resemble a USB flash drive and offer flavours such as mango and creme, are a sensation in the US, especially among the teenagers. Juul devices, like most e-cigarettes, vaporize liquid containing nicotine, the addictive stimulant that gives smokers a rush.
Even as anti-tobacco activists say, Juul devices involve addictive chemicals and can be a gateway to cigarette smoking, especially for the young, the push to launch in India is said to be part of the company’s broader Asia strategy, as India has 106 million adult smokers, second only to China in the world, making it a “lucrative market”.
Juul sources have been quoted as saying that the company is exploring “potential markets”, and is already “engaged with health regulators, policymakers and other key stakeholders”. And, as part of its evaluation, it would consult with the Indian Journal of Clinical Practice (IJCP), a healthcare communications company, one of whose editors is Dr Aggarwal.
---
A version of this article first appeared here

Comments

rakesh gupta said…
I am not surprised despite the shock and disappointment that a concerned and capable cardiologist who also leads the national fraternity of medicos, supports ENDS as ANDS! The mohfw should resolve the issue itself ASAP instead of leaving it to the States.
Uma Sheth said…
It is not at all surprising--obviously the big industries will be financially supporting the ruling party for their election campaign
atul said…
I loved your article i was vaping from past 3 year and i don't thing their is any harmful effect of vaping it doesn't contain nicotine and purely made for smoker to have a alternative of cigarette and also called e-cigarette so if want an alternative cigarette why to wait just buy juul pods .

TRENDING

Girl child education: 20 major states 'score' better than Gujarat, says GoI report

By Rajiv Shah
A Government of India report, released last month, has suggested that “model” Gujarat has failed to make any progress vis-à-vis other states in ensuring that girls continue to remain enrolled after they leave primary schools. The report finds that, in the age group 14-17, Gujarat’s 71% girls are enrolled at the secondary and higher secondary level, which is worse than 20 out of 22 major states for which data have been made available.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad "declared support" to two-nation theory in 1937, followed by Jinnah three years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Congress 'promises' cancellation of Adani power project: Jharkhand elections

Counterview Desk
Pointing out that people's issues take a backseat in Jharkhand's 2019 assembly elections, the state's civil rights organization, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of activists and people’s organisations, has said that political parties have largely ignored in their electoral manifestos the need to implement the fifth schedule of the Constitution in a predominantly tribal district.

Hindutva founders 'borrowed' Nazi, fascist idea of one flag, one leader, one ideology

By Shamsul Islam*
With the unleashing of the reign of terror by the RSS/BJP rulers against working-class, peasant organizations, women organizations, student movements, intellectuals, writers, poets and progressive social/political activists, India also witnessed a series of resistance programmes organized by the pro-people cultural organizations in different parts of the country. My address in some of these programmes is reproduced here... 
***  Before sharing my views on the tasks of artists-writers-intellectuals in the times of fascism, let me briefly define fascism and how it is different from totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is political concept, a dictatorship of an individual, family or group which prohibits opposition in any form, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is also described as authoritarianism.
Whereas fascism, while retaining all these repressive characteristics, also believes in god-ordained superiority of race, cultur…

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

With RSS around, does India need foreign enemy to undo its democratic-secular fabric?

By Shamsul Islam*
Many well-meaning liberal and secular political analysts are highly perturbed by sectarian policy decisions of RSS/BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after starting his second inning. They are vocal in red-flagging lynching incidents, policies of the Modi government on Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Savarkar who submitted 6-7 mercy petitions to the British masters (getting remission of 40 years out of 50 years' sentence), and the murder of constitutional norms in Goa, Karnataka and now in Maharashtra.

Post-Balakot, danger that events might spiral out of control is 'greater, not less'

By Tapan Bose*
The fear of war in South Asia is increasing. Tensions are escalating between India and Pakistan after the Indian defence minister's announcement in August this year that India may revoke its current commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack, known as ‘no first use’. According to some experts who are watching the situation the risk of a conflict between the two countries has never been greater since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Worrying signs in BJP: Modi, Shah begin 'cold-shouldering' Gujarat CM, party chief

By RK Misra*
The political developments in neighbouring Maharashtra where a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government assumed office has had a trickle down effect in Gujarat with both the ruling BJP and the Congress opposition going into revamp mode.

'Favouring' tribals and ignoring Adivasis? Behind coercion of India's aborigines

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Tribal people account for 8.2% of India’s population. They are spread over all of India’s States and Union Territories. Even so they can be broadly classified into three groupings. The first grouping consists of populations who predate the Indo-Aryan migrations. These are termed by many anthropologists as the Austro-Asiatic-speaking Australoid people.