Tobacco: The Silent Killer

[op-ed snap] Huff and e-puff: On e-cigarette ban


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: e-cigarettes

Mains level: Toabcco usage in India & how to reduce it


Delhi government’s plan to ban e-cigarettes

  1. In a recent hearing on a public interest litigation in the Delhi High Court, the Delhi government said it was planning to ban e-cigarettes
  2. If it follows through, the NCT will join States such as Karnataka and Maharashtra in the ban
  3. The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has taken a stand against e-cigarettes

Is ban justified?

  1. The controversy exists partly because it is a new and rapidly evolving technology
  2. This makes it hard for researchers to study the health effects
  3. The evidence so far indicates that e-cigarettes are safer than combustible cigarettes
  4. Because they heat a liquid to generate a nicotine-containing aerosol, instead of burning tobacco, they do not produce toxic tars
  5. A ban is not the right approach to regulate this technology, given that combustible cigarettes are freely available across India
  6. Completely banning the technology, while selling normal cigarettes, could take away a promising smoking-cessation aid

Are e-cigarettes completely safe?

  1. At high temperatures, e-cigarettes produce carcinogens such as formaldehyde
  2. Even the low doses in e-cigarette aerosols can be carcinogenic if inhaled for years
  3. They also increase the odds of lung disease and myocardial infarction, but to a lesser extent than normal cigarettes do

Making users drug addicts

  1. E-cigarettes can act as a gateway drug for young people
  2. E-cigarette users were more likely to turn into regular smokers eventually

Reducing the impact of tobacco

  1. E-cigarettes must be viewed from a “harm minimisation” perspective
  2. Combustible cigarettes are more noxious than electronic ones
  3. Switching from the combustible cigarettes to the e-cigarettes can only help addicts

Way Forward

  1. Instead of the ban, a more pragmatic option would be to regulate e-cigarettes tightly, by creating standards for the aerosols and banning underage and public use
  2. This would leave smokers with a therapeutic alternative while protecting youngsters from a gateway drug
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