From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : ENDS
Mains level : Tobacco - India; need to regulate ENDS rather than ban it
The world has embraced electronic cigarettes, commonly known as vapes, and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) as harm-reduction alternatives to combustible tobacco used in cigarettes.
- Globally, several tobacco control researchers have concluded that e-cigarettes are at least 95% less hazardous than combustible cigarettes.
- 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.
India – Tobacco
- The country bears 12% of the global burden of tobacco users, has 40% of its adults exposed to passive smoking.
- We have shown the lowest quit rate among all countries surveyed in the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2.
- 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.
- According to a study conducted by The British Medical Journal, as many as 68 countries, including the UK, US, Canada, France, and Japan, are using a range of regulatory mechanisms to enhance the discretionary power of their adult citizens.
- These 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.
- The UK and France have witnessed a decline in their smoking rates, with the UK marking the lowest at 14.9% in 2017, in comparison to 19.8% in 2011, and a record 1.6 million people in France having moved away from combustible cigarettes over the past two years.
- Sweden has achieved the lowest rates of smoking-caused illnesses in Europe, mostly due to a low-risk form of smokeless tobacco called snus.
- Japan has reduced cigarette sales by a third in just three years through product substitution.
- New Zealand is promoting ENDS by launching a website called Vaping Facts to clarify myths and make the country smoking-free by 2025.
- Canada, the UAE, and Seychelles have reversed their bans to regulate the product and allow access to adult smokers.
Ban to regulate
- Country-wise e-cigarette policies differ and the outcomes of their experience so far could inform a regulatory system in India.
- These countries have regulatory mechanisms to monitor the manufacture, sale, labeling, and promotion of ENDS products to enable people to switch and deter unintended consequences.
- Canada has created a separate provision for vaping products under its existing tobacco control regulations to ensure that the category of modern products is regulated but these are more accessible than old tobacco products.
- The World Health Organization and the EU have acted in favor of a regulatory framework instead of a blanket ban. They have provided detailed policy suggestions for countries to restrict producing, marketing, selling and using e-cigarettes.
Course for India
- With a smoking population 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.
- A large chunk of India’s healthcare expenditure goes into the treatment and management of preventable diseases, including tobacco-related illnesses. India will not only gain economically but also find better solutions to combat the voluntary inhalation of harmful substances.
- 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.
- India is currently the second-largest tobacco consumer in the world.
- A ban on a widely accepted alternative to smoking regular cigarettes not only prevents consumers from making a less harmful choice, but it may also result in an illicit trade turning rampant.
- We need to check the entry of dangerous counterfeits and deny vulnerable groups access to these products via the black market.
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing much
Mains level : Benefits of pictorial warnings and challenges
History of the fight against Tobacco
- It is ten years since U.S. Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, but now, the Food and Drug Administration issued a rule that pictorial warnings be carried on cigarette packages and advertisements.
- At present, cigarette packages in the U.S. carry only text warnings and only on one side.
- Canada was the first to introduce pictorial warnings on cigarette packets in 2001.
- By 2018, 118 countries had implemented such warnings in line with the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that came into force in 2005.
Importance of messaging
- Dut to their small size and placement, text warnings remain invisible and fail to convey the harmful effects of smoking.
- Gory pictures are very likely to be noticed, leave a lasting impression of the varied risks of smoking.
- They also convey the central message immediately and easily.
- A 2017 study based on modeling found that pictorial warnings could reduce the prevalence of smoking in the U.S by 5% by 2020 and up to 10% by 2065.
- Data from countries that introduced pictorial warnings show how powerful they can be.
- In Canada, there was a 12% relative reduction in smoking prevalence in 6 years after graphic images were made mandatory.
- Australia witnessed more than a 10% drop in prevalence between 2004 and 2008.
- The U.K. saw a 10% relative decline in 2009, just a year after image warnings were introduced.
Challenges to a stricter tobacco law – lessons from the USA
- Stiff opposition from the tobacco industry on the ground that graphic images violate rights protecting free speech.
- The biggest threat that pictorial warnings pose to tobacco companies is in reducing the appeal and consumption of tobacco.
- About 30% of young adults in 28 European countries and Canada reported that graphic images made them less likely to start smoking.
Pictorial warnings can turn the power of packaging — far from brand building, packages with graphic images will become a mobile medium to spread public health messages at no cost to the government.