Vardhan seeks complete ban on e-cigarettes, ENDS

Vardhan seeks complete ban on e-cigarettes, ENDS

Vardhan seeks complete ban on e-cigarettes, ENDS

Favouring a complete ban on e-cigarettes and all products described as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has said that such products push children towards tobacco habit eventually via nicotine dependence.

In his clearest message yet on the controversy over the safety of ENDS, Vardhan ruled out their acceptability in the light of research findings by experts which have held that they are no less unsafe than the "real thing".

According to an official release here, the minister, addressing global tobacco control experts at the 45th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Barcelona, Spain yesterday, said e-cigarettes and similar products push children towards the tobacco habit eventually via nicotine dependence.

"In our national consultation it has been shown that children and other non-smokers tend to develop nicotine addiction at a rate greater than situations, where ENDS did not exist. And after that the slide to tobacco is practically inevitable," he said.

He, however, pointed out that banning ENDS should not be an end in itself. "The success of a ban strategy will depend on how we agree to control illicit trade and cross border sales of such products. The use of Internet for this trade should also be curbed," he added.

"I am sure all experts present here are aware of the power of the tobacco industry. India is committed to taking proactive measures to counter the challenges they throw up," he said.

In this context, he mentioned India's recent climbing to the first position among countries notifying mandatory printing of warnings on the largest surface area of packages containing cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. The new rules demand pictorial health warnings on 85 per cent on both sides of tobacco packs.

Vardhan said that he had a definite road map for the future. This includes institutionalising a 24-hour telephone helpline (to be called "Quitline") to counsel tobacco users who are fighting the habit.

The release also said that India is home to 275 million tobacco users. The use of smokeless tobacco has become a major public health menace, which, if not checked in time with strong measures could become a national threat.

The aggressive marketing strategies marked by attractive packaging, flavouring and price-cuts represent a major challenge for the government, the statement added.