Bringing an ordinance to ban e-cigarettes was an urgency as vaping was turning into an epidemic among the youth and allowing such products would have seriously undermined the government’s tobacco control efforts, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said.
Voicing confidence that the ban on e-cigarettes will be highly effective as the consumer base is small at present, he said taking the ordinance route was an approach to nip the problem in the bud.
On September 18, the government issued an ordinance making the manufacturing, production, import, export, distribution, transport, sale, storage or advertisements of such alternative smoking devices a cognizable offence, attracting jail term and fine.
“The success of ban depends upon the size of consumer base. Larger the size, lesser is the success rate of a ban…e-cigarettes have a small consumer base and bans will be highly effective,” the minister told PTI in an exclusive interview.
Only 4 per cent of population in India smokes cigarettes. The other 96 per cent, especially youth and adolescents are at risk of nicotine addiction through use of e-cigarettes.
“ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) have a net negative impact on public health, hence the ban,” he said, adding aggressive steps are necessary against these products that risk exposing a new generation of young people to nicotine.
Quoting Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS 2) 2016-17, Mr Vardhan said there are 270 million adult tobacco users in India who require their nicotine fix many times in a day while an estimated 0.02 per cent Indian adults use e-cigarettes.
The minister explained that Electronic Nicotine Delivery Sytems (ENDS) like e-cigarettes are “common among never-smokers” who use these products as means of recreation.
When used by those who have never smoked conventional cigarettes before, these are known to be a gateway products leading to tobacco use and potentially other drugs’ use.
“When used by current smokers, it only prolongs their nicotine dependence and deprives them a chance of an addiction-free life. Moreover, it is likely to revive the declining smoking rates by luring former smokers to re-initiate nicotine dependence,” Mr Vardhan said.
The minister further said India had 53 million adult cigarette smokers in 2016 (GATS-2, 2016), making it a “lucrative market for firms such as Juul and Philip Morris International” for introduction of these alternative means “to not only sustain nicotine dependence among current smokers in the name of harm reduction but also to target new customers by creating the perception that e-cigarettes are “safe”.
“Introduction of e-cigarettes, these being gateway products, would have seriously undermined our tobacco control efforts,” he asserted.
As per GATS-2, India has shown 17 per cent relative decrease in tobacco consumption between 2010 and 2016, the steepest-ever reported in any part of…