The two scientists, R.N. Sharan of the Department of Biochemistry, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), and M. Siddiqi, Chairman of Cancer Foundation of India wrote a letter to the Union Health and Family Welfare Minister J.P. Nadda, urging him to consider policies that facilitate smoking cessation by providing smokers with safe and regulated tobacco alternatives.
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“The Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS), more popularly known as e-cigarettes, offer a safer and effective way of meeting the physiological demands of nicotine to smokers to help quit or cut down smoking significantly,” they added, after pointing out that in countries such as the UK, Australia and Malaysia these products are freely available, leading to a decline in smoking.
One million Indians die from smoking yearly
In their latest updated factsheet the WHO stated, “The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing around 6 million people a year”. Sadly one million of those six are reported to be Indians, hence why Siddiqi and Sharan are insisting that smoking in India needs to be seriously tackled.
They suggested that a combination of several methodologies need to be used in order to accommodate the different cultures in the country, stating, “Thus, in India we need to apply, as a policy, nicotine replacement therapy supported by advocacy and where possible, psychological support, for it to work effectively,”
How the FCTC is an opportunity
Happening for the first time in India, the FCTC which will be held in Delhi this week, will bring together 180 parties, including almost every country in the world. Hosting this event signifies that the Indian Government is serious in its commitment to cooperate with the WHO on an international level. Hence the scientists utilised this perfect opportunity to put their message across, urging the government to be open to electronic cigarettes as safer tobacco alternatives.
“Our systematic meta-analysis of published literature compares the health and safety aspects of vaping using ENDS with smoking conventional cigarettes. We find that ENDS have minimum health and safety concerns compared to the high risks associated with conventional cigarettes,” said Sharan, Professor at NEHU, adding that ensuring these products are accessible would enable progress in the public health sector, and reduce the seriously burdensome health issues caused by smoking.