Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[op-ed snap] Smoke of the Vaper: On e-cigarettes ban

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ENDS

Mains level : Need to ban e-cigarettes

Context

  • When alternatives are peddled as ‘the lesser evil’, virtue is artificially added as a measure of degrees.
  • The evil is often clear and present, as in the case of electronic cigarettes, in all forms — Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS), vapes, and e-hookahs.

The Ban

  • The Centre’s move to ban these products shows a welcome intolerance of anything that impacts negatively on the health and wellness of the people of the country.
  • The Cabinet recently cleared the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Ordinance, 2019.
  • Now, any production, import, export, sale (including online), distribution or advertisement, and storage of e-cigarettes is a cognizable offence punishable with imprisonment or fine, or both.

E-cigarettes over Cigarettes

  • E-cigarettes, which were to aid smokers kick their habit, do not burn tobacco leaves.
  • Instead these battery-operated devices produce aerosol by heating a solution containing among other things, nicotine.
  • Nicotine is an addictive substance that may, according to studies, function as a “tumour promoter” and aid neuro-degeneration.
  • Some other compounds in the aerosol are toxic substances that have known deleterious effects, and might just be less harmful than cigarettes, not harmless.
  • Seven deaths have been recorded in the U.S. — the largest consumer of e-cigarettes in the world — where, New York recently banned the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes.

Ban is justified

  • There is ample evidence on the harm of nicotine addiction — the reason that it is only approved under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act for use only in nicotine gums and patches.
  • As the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) outlines, these devices can only be believed to succeed if smokers have moved on to an alternative nicotine source.
  • There is evidence now that vaping dangled as a cool, fun, activity, lures youngsters, and ironically, serves to introduce them to smoking.
  • The FCTC also records that e-cigarettes are unlikely to be harmless, and long-term use is expected to increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and possibly cardiovascular disease and other diseases also associated with smoking.

Numbers were the trigger

  • The urgency to act on this front is also justified by the number of users.
  • As per figures submitted to Parliament earlier this year, e-cigarettes and accessories valued at about $1,91,780 were imported to India between 2016 and 2019.

Conclusion

  • The government, already on the right path, must go all out to ensure that its ban is implemented earnestly in letter and spirit, unlike the patchy execution of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act.
  • It is essential to ensure this progressive ordinance does not go up in smoke.
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