1. Discuss ENDS and how it is better than traditional tobacco
2. Prove how India has failed to prevent smoking-related deaths despite a ban on ENDS and several other steps
3. Discuss how other nations are embracing ENDS to reduce tobacco consumption
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that work by heating a liquid into an aerosol that the user inhales and exhales. The e-cigarette liquid typically contains nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, flavourings, and other chemicals. The Union Health Ministry has instructed all the States to put a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes and other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) under their jurisdiction.
With a smoking population estimated at over 100 million, India is not only a lucrative market for e-cigarette players, but also has more to gain from a public health standpoint if ENDS are permitted for following reasons-
1. Globally, several tobacco control researchers have concluded that e-cigarettes are at least 95% less hazardous than combustible cigarettes.
2. Studies by Public Health England show that the risk of passive smoking associated with them is also extremely low, as they do not produce tobacco fumes.
3. Since there is empirical evidence to suggest that countries, which have regulated ENDS, have witnessed a decline in smoking rates, India needs to take note and reconsider its stance on the matter.
4. Countries, including the UK, US etc are using a range of regulatory mechanisms which include laws that prohibit sales of ENDS to minors, regulate advertising and promotion, impose limits on nicotine concentration, and place checks on product quality and battery standards.
5. The World Health Organization and the EU have acted in favour of a regulatory framework instead of a blanket ban.
6. They have provided detailed policy suggestions for countries to restrict producing, marketing, selling and using e-cigarettes. This grants consumers who are unable to quit smoking the right to choose a less harmful alternative.
Unregulated sale of e-cigarettes in India is dangerous as:
1. There is no standardization of dosages of nicotine as well as various additives in the solution.
2. Several studies indicate that e-cigarette vapour, although less toxic than smoke from normal cigarettes, is harmful to children, adolescents, and for foetuses in pregnant women.
3. E-cigarettes are falsely marketed as “harmless” alternatives to smoking when they are actually harmful, even though to a lesser extent than normal cigarettes. Also, their unregulated use in places where smoking is prohibited (public places, hospitals etc) may lead to adverse effects to the surrounding population, akin to passive smoking.
4. E-cigarettes do not come under the ambit of COTPA, which exempts the producers from complying with norms such as mandatory pictorial warnings.
5. There is no ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, since they are not tobacco products and not covered under any other act. Anyone can order e-cigarettes from online marketplaces.
6. Children may get addicted to e-cigarettes due to the flavour and the fancy for smoke.
7. There have been incidences of accidental ingestion of the liquid, which has proved fatal. Also, there is a risk of explosion with the battery-operated devices. Proper regulations and quality checks are needed to prevent such incidents.
8. The sellers are not mandated to display that the e-cigarettes should only be used by people with a history of smoking. As a result, non-smokers may inadvertently try them and this may prove a gateway to actual smoking for people.
9. There is a lack of proper ecosystem such as awareness programmes, rehabilitation centres etc which can support a tobacco addict during de-addiction. In this situation, only e-cigarettes as methods for de-addiction will not bear much fruit.
10. The recent Global Adult Tobacco Survey has shown that pictorial warnings have led to a reduction in the number of smokers. In this context, regulating ENDS to ensure that they are used only to de-addict present smokers is imperative.
1. There is a need to either amend the COTPA to include ENDS or bring in a new legislation for such devices. Standards and regulations should be set through this legislation.
2. Single policy framework across the country would make compliance simple for all the stakeholders, including consumers and the manufacturers. At present, different states have different laws for this.
3. Proper scientific studies considering the addiction-deaddiction timescales and nicotine metabolism in Indian population should be done to ensure greater therapeutic effectiveness of e-cigarettes.
4. Sale of e-cigarettes to minors and sale on e-commerce platforms should be prohibited, and these devices should be taxed at the same rate as normal cigarettes.
5. India needs to think of vaping as part of a solution and learn from the empirical evidence being provided by various countries. The crisis of addiction has not been responsive to various measures adopted over the decades.