Industry Representatives Urge Relook At Proposed E-Cigarette Ban In India
(Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)

Industry Representatives Urge Relook At Proposed E-Cigarette Ban In India

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A clutch of industry representatives on Wednesday questioned the rationale behind the government’s proposed ban on e-cigarettes and similar vaping devices in India.

In a submission to the health ministry, Trade Representatives of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems urged a re-look into the proposed ban on import, distribution and sale of vaping devices in India. It had earlier suggested initiation of a consultative process so that opinion of all stakeholders can be heard and facts are placed in the correct perspective.

Over 62 specialists in nicotine, science, policy and medicine have in a signed letter urged the Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research to reconsider its recommendations on ENDS, rebutting each of the four points on which ICMR had based its recommendation.

The experts claimed that the ICMR paper fails to present a balanced overview of the risk-benefit ratio of ENDS, vis-a-vis other combustible tobacco products, and therefore recommendations for a ban are not justified.

TRENDS on Wednesday appended the letter in a representation to the Union Health Secretary, copying it to the health minister and other stakeholders as well, underlining the logic of the expert's views as a basis for re-looking at its stance of the category.

A ban on ENDS also means bringing to a halt all research being done in the country on this new system of nicotine delivery, they said. "This will be detrimental to present and future generations", said Praveen Rikhy, convenor of TRENDS.

The e-cigarette ban will also lead to the emergence of a black market in the country, TRENDS said. This will put the public at risk of unscrupulous elements, and something that can benefit people will end up harming them.

Dr. Mohit Varshney, a psychiatrist with experience in tobacco cessation, said ENDS is a viable line of treatment that doctors around the globe currently employ while dealing with addiction cases.

"It has helped innumerable patients suffering from tobacco dependence. The fear with e-cigarettes is that it may lead to sustained nicotine dependence. However, that would become an important public health issue only if long-term nicotine use was associated with adverse health effects.”

"But the evidence from studies evaluating long-term use of pharmaceutical nicotine replacement therapies and of a low-risk smokeless tobacco product, snus is being conveniently ignored which have shown that the risks from nicotine intake are minimal," said Varshney.

The ICMR white paper, published on May 31, recommended a "complete" ban on such "alternative" smoking devices, saying their use can initiate nicotine addiction among non-smokers.

ICMR also said that e-cigarettes adversely affect the cardiovascular system, impair the respiratory immune cell function and airways in a way similar to cigarette smoking, and is responsible for severe respiratory diseases.

TRENDS, however, shared studies from leading global institutes that show ENDS are a less harmful way of nicotine consumption and that e-cigarettes are at least "95 percent less harmful" than tobacco cigarettes.

"TRENDS feels that this is actually a violation of the citizens right to equality, which is guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. Why should a citizen be denied the right to choose a less harmful way of nicotine consumption just because he or she happens to live in a particular state?”

Banning such alternative smoking devices is one of the priorities of the health ministry, as part of the “First 100 Days Agenda" set by the second Narendra Modi government.

The Delhi High Court has stayed the Centre's circular banning sale and manufacture of e-cigarettes and e-hookah with nicotine flavour, saying as the products were not a "drug", the authorities did not have the jurisdiction to issue such a direction.

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