‘The Alternatives’ calls health ministry’s ban on e-cigarettes as regressive

The body that supports the use of e-cigarettes as an alternative has stated that the health ministry's decision will deprive millions from using what it claims as safer alternatives and a tool for quitting smoking

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New Delhi: In a reaction to the advisory issued by the Union Ministry of Health to the state governments seeking ban on sales of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), including e-cigarettes and vaping devices, a body supporting e-cigarettes as an option to real smoking, The Alternatives, has called the decision as based on poor advice, lack of scientific evidence and complete absence of basis.

In a statement issued on 29th August, it said that the ENDS products are being examined across the world for their benefits in harm reduction and as a pathway to smoking cessation. “The Advisory must be withdrawn immediately and an expert body of scientists be tasked with collaborating with global researchers and scientists to validate that has emerged and which is being examined by WHO.
Over the past two years, the evidence has mounted to show that both e-cigarettes and vaping devices are cutting down risk by over 95 per cent,” it said.

The statement further quotes the UK House of Commons Science and Technology committee’s remarks: “E-cigarettes, estimated as 95% less harmful than conventional cigarettes, are too often being overlooked as a stop smoking tool by the NHS. Regulations should be relaxed relating to e-cigarettes’ licensing, prescribing and advertising of their health benefits. Their level of taxation and use in public places must be reconsidered.”

Mr Deepak Mukarji, a prime advocate of harm reduction to people and the planet under the banner ‘The Alternatives’ says, “The Alternatives is disappointed with the central government directives to ban e-cigarettes. This retrograde step denies harm reduction and potentially lifesaving alternatives to smokers by ignoring science and its emerging technologies. The UK parliamentary Science and Technology Committee report is a good basis for India to relook at the science and evidence towards implementing legislation that can regulate the product development, manufacture, and distribution of licensed smoke-cessation and harm reduction vaping products”.

The Association of Vapers India (AVI) also asked the government that why it is not banning tobacco cigarettes if it is so concerned about nicotine. The body also rubbished government contention that vaping will increase smoking rates among teens, citing evidence to the contrary from a survey of 60,000 teens conducted by Public Health England. 

"This claim is bogus as smoking rates among youth are declining in all countries that have allowed vaping. In fact, after vaping was introduced, overall smoking rates have declined at a historical rate, which clearly points to the tremendous harm reduction potential of vaping," the AVI director Samrat Chowdhery was quoted saying in the media reports.

A Progress report published on 27 June 2018, by the WHO on ENDS and ENNDS states that “In the last two years, since CoP7, an increasing number of academic studies on the impact of ENDS on the tobacco epidemic and an initial evaluation of experiences with a number of policies implemented by the parties have been published. However, there is no consensus yet.

The Alternatives statement claimed that there is a rising body of research, public health bodies and many leading national governments regulating and enabling E-cigarettes and vaping as potential avenues for tobacco harm reduction and even cessation. It alleged that the State governments in India have chosen to protect cigarette companies by banning ENDS products that are increasingly showing clinical results of heavy reduction in risk profile.

“All forms of tobacco use must be banned and censured from use. In this battle to get smokers to quit, vaping or the use of e-cigarettes is a proven harm reduction strategy in the right direction. Progressive governments interested in the health of their citizens are being compelled to relook at the science. Given  Prime Minister Modi’s thrust on health for all, it is critical the India to take a serious relook at the science behind using e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation and harm reduction initiative,” said the statement.