Ban on e-cigarettes

Kashmir Times. Dated: 9/20/2019 11:26:52 PM

Simple ban on e-cigarettes is unlikely to work in the Indian context and requires forceful implementation to be effective

The central government's decision to ban electronic cigarettes, in all forms - Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS), vapes and e-hookahs - shows a welcome intolerance to anything that impacts negatively on the health and wellness of the people of the country. Though these alternatives to tobacco smoking have been touted as 'the lesser evil', yet they have caused extensive damage to the people in different parts across the world. The latest studies have positive evidence that the alternative e-cigarettes have been worse compared to the tobacco smoking for the people. In the developed countries in Europe and United States of America, major thrust has been on creating awareness about the ill-effects of the tobacco smoking and the alternative material in use. In India, the reaction to such products has been late as usual and the Union Cabinet recently cleared the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Ordinance, 2019. Now, any production, import, export, sale (including online), distribution or advertisement, and storage of e-cigarettes is a cognisable offence punishable with imprisonment or fine, or both. E-cigarettes, which were to aid smokers kick their habit, do not burn tobacco leaves. Instead these battery-operated devices produce aerosol by heating a solution containing among other things, nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive substance that may, according to studies, function as a 'tumour promoter' and aid neuro-degeneration. Some other compounds in the aerosol are toxic substances that have known deleterious effects, and might just be less harmful than cigarettes, not harmless. Seven deaths have been recorded in the US - the largest consumer of e-cigarettes in the world - where, New York recently banned the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes. This was followed by other cities in the US when some of the cases of breathlessness were reported due to e-cigarettes. In India, these issues have to be taken up at a higher level and with vigorous campaign so that such evils are kept at bay. The awareness campaigns also need to be intensified among the people so that harm to the people in the society is prevented to the maximum possible extent.
Apart from this, it is to be noted that there is ample evidence on the harm of nicotine addiction - the reason that it is only approved under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act for use only in nicotine gums and patches. As the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) outlines, these devices can only be believed to succeed if smokers have moved on to an alternative nicotine source, and then stopped using that too; and the recruitment of minors into nicotine dependence eventually wanes to zero. There is evidence now that vaping, dangled as a cool, fun, activity, lures youngsters, and ironically, serves to introduce them to smoking. The FCTC also records that e-cigarettes are unlikely to be harmless, and long-term use is expected to increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and possibly cardiovascular disease and other diseases also associated with smoking. The urgency to act on this front is also justified by the number of users. As per figures submitted to Parliament earlier this year, e-cigarettes and accessories valued at about US Dollar 1.91 lakh were imported to India between 2016 and 2019. The central government, already on the right path, must go all out to ensure that its ban is implemented earnestly in letter and spirit, unlike the patchy execution of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act. It is essential to ensure this progressive ordinance does not go up in smoke. The enforcement has to be forceful so that the ban on such products succeeds.

 

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