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 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

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.

Agricultural reform? Small farmers will be more vulnerable, corporates to 'fix' price

By Dibyendu Chaudhuri*
Agriculture employs 42% of the total work force whereas it contributes only 16% to the country’s GDP. The average annual growth rate in agriculture has remained static to 2.9% since the last six years. This means that the post-green revolution conventional agriculture has reached its peak. Responsiveness of soil fertility to fertiliser application, an indicator of stagnancy in agriculture, shows declining trend since 1970. The worst sufferer has been the small and marginal farmers who constitute 86% of total farmers.