Last year 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 said, after pointing out that in countries such as the UK, these products are freely available leading to a significant decline in smoking.
Electronic cigarettes could reverse India’s smoking epidemic
India has a very serious tobacco problem and unfortunately the second largest cigarette smoking population in the world. Yet, all this data that could contribute to reversing the problem went unnoticed. Earlier this year 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.
Scientists send a second letter to Indian Union Minister
Dr. Siddiqi and Prof. Sharan are speaking up again. They have written yet another letter addressed to the Union Minister, urging him to avert a public health disaster by regulating electronic cigarettes rather than ban them. “We believe that public health in India is at a greater risk under a prohibitive environment than by allowing smokers, who wish to cease tobacco use, an alternative option based on nicotine replacement via e-cigarettes.” said Prof. Sharan.
In line with what several studies have been indicating, the scientists pointed out that the devices have been shown to lead to decreased smoking rates in the countries where they have been endorsed. Infact, thanks to the advent of vaping, the UK who has fully endorsed the devices as part of smoking cessation programs, is reporting the lowest number of smokers ever recorded.
“At a time when there is growing support for e-cigarettes in many countries it is regrettable that India appears to be moving in a negative direction. Given the scale of tobacco use in India there is huge potential for tobacco harm reduction.” said Prof. Sharan.
Read Further : Nicotine Science and Policy