December 10, 2019
After Parliament passed the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Bill, 2019, doctors have raised concerns about people becoming vulnerable to chronic heart and lung diseases.
Suggesting that the government should have conducted more studies before banning e-cigarettes, Dr. Bharat Gopal, Senior Pulmonologist and Director of National Chest Centre, Delhi, said, "There is data available regarding e-cigarettes as smoking cessation devices from the UK, so Indian studies should have been taken up by the government as well as health organisations. A lot of smokers come to us asking for alternatives so that they can quit smoking. Hence, the government should at least allow research and studies to be conducted on these alternatives so that in future, this could be a tool for smoking cessation.”
“A ban will also give rise to a black market and the government will not have any control over it. It would have been in greater public interest if the government would have regulated e-cigarettes and allowed more research on harm reduction tools."
Dr. Sree Sucharitha, a Researcher at Tagore Medical College, Chennai, questioned the whitepaper by Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) which proposed a ban on e-cigarettes. She said it contained one-sided views and therefore can't be seen as fair research.
She said, "There are many ex-smokers in India who moved to e-cigarettes because they failed with nicotine gums and patches, and now with the ban they will be forced to go back to smoking. This is a regressive step taken by the government, which is often skeptical about new developments. This happened with vaccines, condoms etc. in the past but the policies ultimately changed. The bill to ban e-cigarettes is a defeat for science."
Calling it an undemocratic move, Dr. Aparajeet Kar from the Pulmonology Department of BLK Super specialty Hospital, New Delhi, said, "The bill to ban e-cigarettes is surprising in a country like India where so many deaths are reported due to smoking. The government has neglected the harm reduction benefits of e-cigarettes and has been relying only on the biased whitepaper of ICMR. Those who gave up smoking with the help of vaping devices will now be vulnerable to diseases such as lung cancer, COPD, bronchitis etc. as they will move back to conventional smoking due to non-availability of e-cigarettes. The government should have considered regulation as it has been done in various other countries, but banning is not a solution."
Jagannath Sarangapani, Director of Association of Vapers India (AVI), a consumer body that represents e-cigarette users, said, "Lakhs of vapers who are former smokers are facing a serious crisis as this ban has forced them to return to smoking and other forms of tobacco. Instead of coming to their aid, the government has pretended they don't exist, nor do the 110 million current smokers who have been denied access to less harmful alternatives."