Ban on e-cigarettes: Vaping organisations protest, demand regulation4 min read . Updated: 28 Sep 2019, 08:26 PM IST
- E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that produce aerosol by heating a solution containing nicotine, which is the addictive substance in combustible cigarettes
- These include all forms of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, Heat Not Burn Products, e-Hookah and the like devices
New Delhi: The government’s decision to ban e-cigarettes and vaping earlier this month attracted protests in several parts of the country on Saturday. Scores of vapers, harm reduction advocates, medical professionals and members of the legal fraternity opposed the government’s approval of “Prohibition of E-cigarettes Ordinance 2019" and called for regulation instead of complete ban. The Association of Vapers India (AVI), an organisation that represents e-cigarette users, held nationwide protests in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai. It also threatened to take a legal recourse against the decision.
The protesters termed the ban ‘willful genocide’ by the government, pushing current vapers back to deadly smoking. The body claimed that it will deprive the country’s 11 crore smokers of safer options. The body also alleged the government’s unilateral decision is based on its vested interest in tobacco industry.
"How can a ban be announced without adequate research, discussions with all stakeholders and without debate by our elected representatives? This is a knee-jerk reaction to a new tobacco harm reduction route, which needs regulation not a ban," said National coordinator for the protests Jagannath Sarangapani, based in Hyderabad.
Several doctors also joined the protest stating that there is no evidence so far that vaping causes harm to other people, which is in contrast to secondhand smoke which kills 800,000 people every year.
“E-cigarettes unlike conventional cigarettes do not burn tobacco thereby producing no tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most damaging elements in a conventional cigarette. While all our claims are backed with scientific studies, we are still waiting for the data on the vaping youth epidemic in India that the government is talking about," Aparajeet Kar, a pulmonologist based in New Delhi.
Maneesh Kasera who switched to vaping in his 50s after decades of smoking called for regulation instead of complete ban on vaping. “Over 68 countries have regulated instead of banning. Teen vaping 'epidemic' is an overblown myth not backed by any research or statistics," he said.
The consumer body warned that it is planning to hold more protests against the ban on e-cigarettes as well as against the bar on research. Protesters signed a petition to the prime minister and wrote testimonials which will be sent to authorities.
“The government ignored the stay orders of Hon’ble High Court of Delhi as well as Mumbai, and even imposed bans on research. If the government turns deaf ears to our demands, we will be forced to challenge it legally," Samrat Chowdhery, AVI director and harm reduction advocate, said.
“Nicotine in the form of cigarettes, gums and patches is widely and easily available. Vaping is just another method to inhale nicotine. Then why the government has banned only this category? The government allowed cigarettes to be sold easily and people got addicted and now they have to take little responsibility to undo this devil by allowing people effective means to wean off," said Kamal Bhattacharya, an artist from Bangalore.
While the protests are expected to continue, cancer researchers and public health experts disagree that the government’s decision should be reviewed. While the government has banned e-cigarettes considering them a major health risk, the apex research body Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) also recommended a complete ban on e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), based on currently available scientific evidence. As per the ICMR recent paper, it was noted that e-cigarettes and other such devices contained not only nicotine solution, which was highly addictive, but also harmful ingredients such as flavoring agents and vaporisers.
“India is already the second largest consumer of tobacco. When the country is already struggling with all forms of tobacco addiction, allowing a new addiction through a new industry (vaping and e-cigarettes) to come up will be dangerous for India. As far as harm reduction is concerned, it can only help for a short period of time but for long term authentic studies show e cigarettes can be harmful," said Ravi Mehrotra, Chief Executive Officer at Indian Cancer Research Consortium, ICMR.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that produce aerosol by heating a solution containing nicotine, which is the addictive substance in combustible cigarettes. These include all forms of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), Heat Not Burn Products, e-Hookah and the like devices.
“E-cigarettes pose significant health risks to users that are frighteningly similar to those of conventional cigarettes. E-cigarettes also risk as a gateway to smoking imitation for young people once they have become addicted. They are being marketed as a harm reduction product which is contrary to the truth .Y oungsters are being lured as it is easily available in different flavours", Binoy Mathew, Public Health Activitist Voluntary Health Association of India.
The Union Cabinet on September 18 approved the “Prohibition of E-cigarettes Ordinance 2019" that seeks to ban the production, manufacturing, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertisement of e-cigarettes.