New Delhi: Last week, the e-cigarette industry received a boost as the Delhi high court stayed a government order which virtually banned the sale of their products. A few days later, over 1,000 doctors have written to the Prime Minister asking him to continue the ban on e-cigarettes.
The letter says that these 1,061 doctors are concerned about the “public health issue impacting youth.” They informed the prime minister that they have been discussing e-cigarettes with school principals who say that nine- and ten-year-old students have been found with e-cigarettes in their school bags.
Last August, the Union health ministry issued an advisory to all states to ensure that e-cigarettes are not sold. About 12 states have banned the sale of these devices.
“I will never recommend any nicotine product usage without medical supervision as it is a highly addictive chemical. These products should be banned in India,” says Dr Shiv Choudhary, head of cardio-thoracic vascular surgery at AIIMS, Delhi, about the letter.
The letter also says that the e-cigarette industry has been lobbying at various levels to allow its entry into the Indian market: “It has come to our notice that the ENDS lobby is manoeuvring to over turn the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s advisory and various forums are being used for this- media, legal action and even parliament.” ENDS refers to electronic nicotine delivery systems.
They say that these products are sustaining the existing cigarette market and creating a new and additional market for nicotine products.
The health ministry’s advisory was based on comments by a government committee which had analysed 251 research studies on e-cigarettes and concluded that they were harmful.
The World Health Organisation in a 2016 report, said, “However, ENDS/ENNDS are unlikely to be harmless, and long-term use is expected to increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and possibly cardiovascular disease as well as some other diseases also associated with smoking.”
India’s drug regulator in February issued a notification which said sale (including online), manufacture, distribution, trade, import or advertisement would not be allowed for e-cigarettes and related products.
The ban extends to what are called ENDS: e-cigarettes, heat not burn devices, vapes, e-sheesha, e-nicotine flavoured hookah and so on.
A few vape companies reportedly approached the Delhi high court, which put a temporary stay on the government’s ban this month, marking a brief win for the industry.
A number of medical doctors associated with the e-cigarette industry have commented on what they believe is the “safety” of e-cigarettes. “It is sad that the ENDS lobby has assembled a group of physicians who are sharing misleading, distorted information to suit the ENDS industry,” says Pankaj Chatruvedi, head of oncology at Tata Memorial Hospital.