PRO vape groups in India have condemned its government’s decision to ban e-cigarettes while allowing millions to continue smoking – and are considering trying to reverse it through the supreme court.
Following the Health Ministry’s announcement last week that vaping is to be banned imminently throughout the country, the Association of Vapers’ India (AVI) is leading a growing group of advocates for harm reduction alternatives who are questioning its decision.
It has asked the government why, if they are worried about the affect of nicotine on its population, it hasn’t outlawed cigarettes too in a country where 120 million people smoke.
Last week, the Indian Health Ministry announced its stance on vaping and instructed all states and union territories to stop the manufacture, sale and advertisements of all Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) including e-cigarettes because it was worried about the “great health risk” to the public, particularly children and pregnant women.
The Times of India newspaper explained the ruling came as: “studies say ENDS have cancer-causing properties are highly addictive and do not offer a safer alternative to tobacco-based products. Experts say e-cigarettes are just a mechanism to deliver nicotine in a more attractive format.”
But not-for-profit group AVI says the government has made its decision without any evidence or prior research into electronic cigarettes, as well as ignoring the fact vaping is now the most widely used means of quitting tobacco worldwide.
In a country where a million die each year from tobacco-related illnesses, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), AVI is now considering challenging the health ministry’s decision in the Supreme Court.
AVI director Samrat Chowdhery said: “How is India going to fight the tobacco menace if smokers are denied safer alternatives? The central government is protecting the tobacco industry and pushing smokers towards death.
“E-cigarettes too contain nicotine like tobacco cigarettes but they do not produce tar and toxic chemicals that cause most tobacco-related deaths across the world. According to some globally renowned studies, e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful compared to combustible cigarettes. They also help in quitting smoking.”
AVI also explained on its website how many vapers in India confused by the government’s tough stance on e-cigarettes have sought replies under the Right To Information Act.
It said in a statement: “Concerned about the hard line the governments in India are taking on electronic cigarettes, many vapers sought replies under the Right to Information (RTI) Act from various government departments, research institutes and even Customs to learn more about the government thinking on ENDS. To our shock and dismay, we learnt through the replies listed that despite electronic cigarettes now being the most widely used means to quit smoking worldwide, none of the state or central bodies had conducted any research on it.
“These replies demonstrate that the central government is about to ban electronic cigarettes without any evidence or research into the subject. This, while substantial taxpayer funds are being sunk into evidently ineffective intervention measures such as sending SMSes to smokers reminding them to quit.”
The Times of India said in a comment piece that if e-cigarettes are banned, so too should cigarettes.
It read: “The Centre’s advisory claims the move is to prevent the youth from getting hooked to e-cigarettes. Why doesn’t it ban the original thing? The Centre appears to be missing the wood for the trees. E-cigarettes are an alternative for smokers and, while no-one suggests it is risk-free, studies show the electronic version is a safer alternative to inhaling tobacco fumes.”
India is now bracing itself for a total ban on vaping in the country but health officials admit online sales are likely to continue, with “cybercrime police” in charge of monitoring transactions of “banned substances”.