Centre moots ordinance to ban e-cigarettes

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Armed with several expert reports, including one from the ICMR, the Union Health Ministry has moved a proposal to the Union Cabinet to ban the sale of e-cigarettes that are gaining popularity among youth.

Currently, there are over 460 e-cigarette brands with varied configurations of nicotine delivery and over 7,700 flavours available in the market.

An ordinance seeking a ban on e-cigarettes had been placed before the Cabinet to prohibit sale (including online sale), manufacture, distribution, trade import and advertisement of every type of electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) including e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn devices, e-sheesha and e-nicotine flavoured hookah that enable nicotine delivery, sources said.

The draft legislation would not refer to cultivation, manufacturing of tobacco or nicotine or its export and may be have limited impact on tobacco farmers.

Presently India does not manufacture e-cigarettes, which are imported primarily from China. All of them are battery-powered devices that are used to smoke or ‘vape’ a flavoured solution containing nicotine in varying concentration, which is an addictive and harmful chemical.

The government decision to ban the ENDS is based on the report of a sub-committee group constituted by Union Health Ministry. The panel considered 251 studies and reports from all over the world to inform the Health Ministry that there was enough scientific evidence to prove that the ENDS and its variants are harmful to users.

Few months ago, Indian Council of Medical Research too released a White Paper, which noted that ENDS or e-cigarettes adversely affected almost all the human body systems with impact across the life course, from the womb to tomb.

A typical cartridge contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes and can act as a potential source for nicotine addiction.

Both reports questioned the efficacy of ENDS as a tobacco cessation aid. “Their efficacy and safety as a quitting aid have not yet been firmly established. Although some smokers claim to have cut down smoking while using ENDS, the total nicotine consumption seems to remain unchanged,” says the ICMR White Paper.

“There is already mounting evidence available in the published medical literature to prove that the ENDS and its variants are harmful to any user and may be as bad as any other tobacco product in terms of causing premature deaths and morbidity. Moreover, the advertising strategy being used to market them, adds to the problem,” adds the health ministry report.

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