Bt Elton Gomes
On Tuesday, India’s health ministry urged states to ban the sale or import of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and heat-not-burn tobacco devices. The health ministry said the move was an attempt to protect children, women, and adolescents from the health risks of such smoking devices.
In an advisory to state governments, the health ministry said that such smoking devices were a “great health risk” and that there remains a possibility that children and non-smokers using such products will switch to cigarettes once they are addicted to nicotine. The move comes after the Delhi High Court was seemingly miffed with the Centre for a delay in coming up with regulatory measures to tackle the threat of e-cigarettes in India.
Which devices could be banned?
The Centre is planning a crackdown on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). ENDS are devices that heat a solution so that an aerosol is created. The solution usually dissolves into propylene glycolor and glycerin. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, ENDS include devices like “vapes, vaporizers, vape pens, hookah pens, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or e-cigs), and e-pipes.”
Why is the ban being proposed?
“It is evident that the Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), including e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn devices, vape, e-sheesha, e-nicotine flavoured hookah, and the like devices or products available by whatsoever name, that enable nicotine delivery or its use, are a great health risk to public at large, especially to children, adolescents, pregnant women and women of reproductive age,” the advisory issued by the health ministry said, PTI reported.
The ministry added that aerosol from ENDS devices contains nicotine, and nicotine can have “adverse effects” on the development of the foetus during pregnancy.
“It may contribute to cardiovascular disease to the people who use ENDS. Also, nicotine may function as a ‘tumour promoter’ and seems to be involved in the biology of malignant diseases. Foetal and adolescent nicotine exposure may have long-term consequences for brain development, potentially leading to learning and anxiety disorders,” the advisory said, as per the PTI report.
Effects of e-cigarettes
Although several studies have been conducted on the health effects of e-cigarettes, the evidence does not point in a specific direction. Citing an exhaustive study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Business Insider reported that while vaping might help adults quit normal cigarettes, it could encourage the youth to start smoking. The report found that although vaping has health risks, it is less likely to be harmful than conventional cigarettes.
David Eaton, the study’s author, said in a statement, “E-cigarettes cannot be simply categorized as either beneficial or harmful,” as per Business Insider. Eaton said that only under certain circumstances, adverse effects of e-cigarettes can cause concern. In other cases, “they offer an opportunity to reduce smoking-related illness.”
However, another study indicated that vaping could be seriously injurious to health. A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States suggested that vaping is “far from harmless” and could pose a serious health risk. In the study, the researchers exposed mice to e-cigarette smoke and concluded that “e-cigarette smoke may contribute to lung and bladder cancer, as well as heart disease, in humans,” as reported by the Week.
Banning a less-harmful alternative?
By proposing a ban on e-cigarettes, is the government taking away a less harmful alternative to smokers? As per an IANS report, Konstantinos Farsalinos, a research fellow at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre, said, “In my opinion, banning e-cigarettes is against public health. I think it’s going to have an impending adverse consequence, because the ban will deprive Indian smokers of a substantially less harmful alternative.” He added, “While its not absolutely safe, it is 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarette.”
The government has to take such statements into consideration before imposing a blanket ban on e-cigarettes. The government has been leading a heavy crackdown on cigarettes in India, but it is proving to be futile, with over half a million children taking to cigarettes.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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