The Union Cabinet’s move on Wednesday clearing an ordinance for banning production, import, distribution and sale of electronic cigarettes and proposing a jail term and fine for its violators evoked mixed reactions among a section of Delhi doctors and other stakeholders.
The Centre’s decision was slammed by trade bodies and certain stakeholders related to e-cigarettes, who reportedly alleged that it was a “draconian” move taken hastily in the interest of the conventional cigarette industry. They also charged that the government was depriving people of a safer alternative to smoking.
Dr Gyandeep Mangal, senior consultant in Respiratory Medicine, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, said, “We are glad with the ban on e-cigarettes by Union Cabinet as these are as harmful as regular cigarettes. It is true that e-cigarette doesn’t contain tobacco but it contains liquefied nicotine which may lead to cancer, lung and heart diseases. Hence it is not true that e-cigarettes are safer. Apart from the nicotine, there are other additional components included which are equally harmful.”
He also said, “The fact is that instead of quitting, many e-cigarette users are continuing to use e-cigarettes while still using conventional cigarettes. Hence we can conclude that e-cigarettes are as harmful as regular cigarettes.”
Earlier, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had red-flagged the use of e-cigarettes citing studies that have apparently shown that these have the potential to cause nicotine addiction.
Referring to the Centre’s move to ban e-cigarettes, Dr Dharminder Nagar of Paras Healthcare said, “The recent vaping-related deaths in the US have once again put a question mark over the possible toxicity of chemicals present in e-cigarette. While investigation into those deaths have still not been conclusive and point to a possibility of spurious products, we must refrain from looking at e-cigarettes as a safe alternative.”
He added, “There have been long-standing doubts over what manufacturers and some health experts call ‘relative safety’ of e-cigarettes over tobacco cigarettes. We do not have sufficient research to understand the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes. There is no ‘good smoke’ and all forms of smoke are bad. The major difference between conventional and e-cigarettes is that the latter do not contain tobacco. However, tobacco is not the only culprit in a cigarette smoke; there is an entire array of other harmful chemicals, many of which are also present in e-cigarettes.”
On the other hand, expressing its resentment over the Centre’s blanket ban on electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), the trade body representing importers, distributors, and dealers of e-cigarettes, TRENDS, said that taking the ordinance route itself was an evidence of the “unsustainability” of the government’s position.
“We are confident that given a chance we will be able to explain to MPs across the country that ENDS are a viable alternative to traditional tobacco burn cigarettes and that they are being increasingly mandated for legal sale by developed and progressive countries globally,” said Praveen Rikhy, convenor of TRENDS.
“We believe that the health ministry ran with this proposal to ban on a selective basis, refusing to meet stakeholders, and was defeated in courts and therefore managed to scrape an ordinance to ban it. This does not look good,” Rikhy charged.