Last June, Karnataka State established a ban on vaping products. The blanket ban on sales, distribution, procurement and advertisement became effective after the Minister for Health and Family Welfare, UT Khader, reviewed the recommendation of the committee on cancer prevention.
A decision taken on recommendation of a committee
At the time of banning the information circulated that it was on the basis of a study that the government had conducted with an NGO on e-cigarettes. According to the journal, the study came to the conclusion that large number of youngsters was getting addicted to it.
A vaper from Bangalore, Praveen Pillai, filed a Right to Information (RTI) query asking the Karnataka government about the details of this study. “A query to which we have been told no such study was conducted“, says the journalist Samrat Chowdhery who raised awareness about the current controversy Indian vapers are facing.
Government confirms such committee report does not exist
In the letter Praveen Pillai received from the Tobacco Control Division of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, on August 1, it is stated that no such document are available:
- No detailed reports submitted by any state department regarding the adverse effects of Electronic Cigarettes which empowered the State Government authority to ban Electronic Cigarettes.
- No reports of tests carried out by [governmental agencies] on Electronic Cigarettes.
- No information where the department thought the Electronic Cigarette industry cannot generate employment and revenue for the State of Karnataka.
- No detailed study, analysis conducted by the State Department body that Says Electronic cigarettes cannot be used for smoking cessation.
- No Study, analysis conducted by The Public Health Department on the Electronic Cigarette Technology
- No reports of any public hearing before imposing a ban.
He insisted before the Agency to get access to any type of document establishing e-cigarette’s harmfulness that was used to ground their decision to ban the product and asked why such a ban does not also apply to traditional tobacco cigarettes.
Samrat Chowdhery was aware of a report on vaping issued by the Indian Medical Association but he had never heard before about the study the Minister of Health referred to in its public declaration. With the RTI, he said, “the Karnataka government has gone on record here to say no such study was conducted after stating publicly that it had been done”. Instead, he believes that the government relied on either 2014 WHO advisory, or some US reports, but he emphasizes the government “lied to us saying they conducted one of their own.”
If it is demonstrated that the ban Karnataka imposed on e-cigarettes is not grounded on solid science or impartial recommendation, it may create a precedent for the bans in the other 5 Indian States and a breath of fresh air for the 100 million smokers who don’t have access to a safer alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes or bindis.
The UK’s Royal College of Physicians recently published a report on e-cigarette that supports the use of ENDS for tobacco harm reduction. With the Public Health England’s report on the e-cigarette, that established vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking, these certainly are recommended bedtime readings for some Ministers of Health, worldwide.
— Samrat Chowdhery (@samrat) August 4, 2016