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“E-cigarettes are just a mechanism to deliver nicotine in an attractive format. They are being marketed as a harm-reduction product, which is contrary to the truth. Youngsters are being lured as it is easily available in different flavours. People should not get lured because e-cigarettes too are harmful,” said Bhavna B Mukhopadhyay, chief executive of the Voluntary Health Association of India.

Several studies have indicated that e-cigs are much safer than their combustible counterparts, in fact in countries such as the UK, where the products have been endorsed for smoking cessation, smoking rates have reached record breaking lows.
Earlier this year, The Health Department of Maharashtra approached its Food and Drug Administration asking for a ban on e-cigarettes, the harm reduction alternatives that are proven to be at least 95% safer than their combustible counterparts. In reply to this, the Union Health Ministry formed a working group to assess the effect of the products on local vapers, in an attempt to find out whether a ban is really necessary.

This committee concluded that the products have cancer-causing properties, and are highly addictive, based on which the Union government is looking into implementing a ban. Since the the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), does not cater for such a ban, the health ministry is now examining other laws such as the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and the Food Safety & Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulation, 2011, to effect the ban.

“COTPA does not have a provision to ban and, therefore, we are faced with the challenge of finding a strong provision. We are convinced about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes but if we do not back it up with a strong provision under the law, then it will fall flat in the courts,” said a senior official.

E-cigarette bans are violating international trade laws

Interestingly, a policy study just published on R.Street was conducted with the aim of looking into whether such bans are even legal, and found that not only do they violate World Trade Organization rules, but most of them also violate domestic laws.

“Currently, tobacco-heated products that contain tobacco are classified as tobacco products and therefore do not face discrimination issues. However, e-cigarettes, which do not contain tobacco, can be classified either as ‘recreational’ or ‘medical products and devices.’ This broader classification opens the door for their prohibition, because nicotine is a drug that also has medicinal uses. Such classification can subject products that contain nicotine to a different set of classifications in ways that appear arbitrary.”Maria Foltea, Fellow, R.Street Institute

“Currently, tobacco-heated products that contain tobacco are classified as tobacco products and therefore do not face discrimination issues,” said R Street Associate Fellow Maria Foltea. “However, e-cigarettes, which do not contain tobacco, can be classified either as ‘recreational’ or ‘medical products and devices.’ This broader classification opens the door for their prohibition, because nicotine is a drug that also has medicinal uses. Such classification can subject products that contain nicotine to a different set of classifications in ways that appear arbitrary.”

Foltea pointed out that although vaping products are significantly safer than their combustible counterparts, the two distinctly different products are in direct competition on the market. “There is therefore good reason to believe that, as long as traditional cigarettes are freely traded, a ban on e-cigarettes will be found discriminatory under WTO rules. Accordingly, regulators must consider such issues of legality before enacting any such prohibitive laws.” she concluded.

“There is therefore good reason to believe that, as long as traditional cigarettes are freely traded, a ban on e-cigarettes will be found discriminatory under WTO rules. Accordingly, regulators must consider such issues of legality before enacting any such prohibitive laws.” Maria Foltea, Fellow, R.Street Institute

On the other hand, India’s Health secretary C K Mishra said, “We are looking into all aspects of e-cigarettes, and working on a methodology to contain the harm from it,” whilst adding that the ministry was likely to decide on the matter very soon.

Banning safer alternatives, but not regular cigarettes

Many public health experts would argue that condemning electronic cigarettes and banning them, while the regular deadly versions are still widely available for sale, is plain ridiculous. 
From a health perspective, several studies have indicated that e-cigarettes are much safer than their combustible counterparts, in fact in countries such as the UK, where the products have been endorsed for smoking cessation, smoking rates have reached record breaking lows. Additionally, a recent study has found that the products are also significantly less addictive than combustible cigarettes, and most importantly countless studies have the dispelled the theory that vaping lures teens into smoking.

Hence, even from this standpoint, many public health experts would argue that condemning electronic cigarettes and banning them, while the regular deadly versions are still widely available for sale, is plain ridiculous.

More info : The Times of India

Indian Scientists ask lawmakers for a stop smoking policy

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