Banning e-cigarettes regressive move: Experts

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New Delhi : Condemning the government's decision to ban e-cigarettes in the absence of scientific evidence, experts said the move is regressive.

In a statement on Thursday, the Association of Vapers India (AVI) -- an organisation that represents e-cigarettes -- said the government has failed to offer an alternative to tobacco cigarettes known to cause many diseases, including cancer and lung disease.

"The government has so far relied on an emotional appeal to persuade tobacco users to kick the habit, but never offered an alternative beyond gums and patches, which have a very low success rate," said Samrat Chowdhery, Director, AVI.

In such a scenario, "an attempt to ban e-cigarettes is regressive given that the government's stated policy is to provide wider choices to consumers for all products and services, and not restrict them," he added.

The advisory issued by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare last week, stated: "States/Union Territories are advised in larger public health interest, and in order to prevent the initiation of ENDS by non-smokers and youth, with special attention to vulnerable groups, to ensure that any Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) including e-Cigarettes, Heat Not-Burn devices, Vape, e-Sheesha, e-Nicotine Flavoured Hookah... are not sold (including online sale)."

However, academicians and activists have expressed concern on the advisory issued without any evidence to substantiate the decision.

Although e-cigarettes too contain nicotine like tobacco cigarettes, they do not produce tar and toxic chemicals that cause most tobacco-related deaths across the world, they argued.

"In e-cigarettes, there is huge reduction of cancer-causing elements to the tune of 90-92 per cent. The government should make a policy to give an option to the smokers to switch to e-cigarettes in its fight against cancer," said R.N. Sharan, Professor at North-Eastern Hill University in Shillong, Meghalaya.

"Vaping involves no smoke. It takes nicotine, which occurs naturally in vegetables like tomato, potato and broccoli, warms it to a vapour for use, eliminating smoke through burning tobacco," added Delhi-based Deepak Mukarji, who is using a not-for-profit advocacy platform called The Alternatives.

Moreover, worldwide 55 countries, including the UK, New Zealand, Norway and Canada, among others, have legalised sale of nicotine e-cigarettes and e-liquids as consumer goods.

These nations view vaping (inhaling and exhaling the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette) as a much safer harm reduction alternative to smoking.

A report from the Royal College of Physicians stated that "the hazard to health arising from long-term vapour inhalation from the e-cigarettes available today is unlikely to exceed 5 per cent of the harm from smoking tobacco".

"An innovation that must be encouraged as a harm reduction alternative to tobacco usage. Yet sadly, misguidance and misrepresentation of facts is leading to the increased banning of a product that could save lives," Mukarji said.