GUWAHATI, May 19 - Over 1,000 doctors, 90 public health organisations and 1,000 school students and teachers from across India have appealed to the Prime Minister for effective enforcement of the ban on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) including e-cigarettes.
Concerned at the aggressive promotion and marketing of ENDS as safe means for quitting smoking, they have urged the Prime Minister and the Union Health Ministry to check the growing popularity of these products, especially amongst the youths.
The groups have lauded the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) for its advisory as a timely measure to tackle the new emerging threat of e-cigarettes in the country. MoHFW had issued an advisory to all States/UT’s to ensure that ENDS – e-Cigarettes, Heat-Not-Burn devices, Vape, e-Sheesha, e-Nicotine Flavoured Hookah, and the like devices that enable nicotine delivery – were not sold (including online sale), manufactured, distributed, traded, imported and advertised in their jurisdictions.
Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan has also written to the Commerce Secretary to prevent JUUL, a US-based company manufacturing vaping devices like e-cigarettes, from entering India. Sudan said that the entry of JUUL products, if not prevented, could undermine the efforts taken by the government towards tobacco control. MoHFW has also appealed against the single-judge order of the Delhi High Court and sought the quashing of its stay on the Directorate General of Health Services Central Drugs Standard Control circular.
A sub-committee group constituted by MoHFW on health effects of ENDS considered 251 studies/reports and concluded that there was evidence to prove that ENDS and their variants, were harmful to users. This committee of doctors from AIIMS, NCDIR and public health experts concluded that ENDS were are as harmful as any another tobacco product in terms of causing premature deaths and morbidity. According to the committee, there is no evidence to show that ENDS are less harmful, safe and helpful towards cessation efforts. The medical communities across the globe have also questioned the acceptance of ENDS as a harm reduction or tobacco cessation strategy. Thirty-six countries around the world banned the sale of e-cigarettes due to their health hazards.
“E-cigarettes are just a mechanism to deliver nicotine in an attractive format. They are being marketed as a harm reduction product, which is contrary to the truth. Youngsters are being lured as these are easily available in different flavours,” Ashim Sanyal, chief operating officer, Consumer Voice, said.
Advocate Ajoy Hazarika, secretary CLPF, said that the newer forms of addiction are destroying younger generations. “Before it is too late we request the authorities to completely ban e-cigarettes in the larger interest of public health and save our citizens from this nicotine menace,” he said.
A recent study titled Emerging Forms of Tobacco Use in India by Hridayshan – done to gauge perceptions of ENDS and e-cigarettes amongst school and college students, parents and teachers – revealed that there was gross misinformation about the harmful effects of ENDS amongst adolescents as they perceive these fun devices to be safe.
Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Puducherry, Jharkhand and Mizoram have already banned the use and sale of e-cigarettes, vape and e-hookah due to their health hazards based on the advisory from the MoHFW. However, a study conducted by Consumer Voice in five major cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Lucknow), found 36 brands of e-cigarettes to be available for purchase, despite those being banned in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) had also issued an amendment to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2018 to ban the advertisement of e-cigarettes. Even the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs issued a circular, saying that all import consignments of e-cigarettes must be cleared by the drug controller first.