As the ambiguity over the legality of e-cigarettes continues in the country, the supporting counsels have raised concerns on the ban and the impact thereof. Small traders representative, Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has taken their concerns to minister of health, Dr. Harsh Vardhan and asked to set up an expert committee to examine the matter.
CAIT has suggested to form a committee to be set up to deliberate of appropriate regulations for Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) such as ecigarettes and vapes.
For the uninitiated, ENDS products include various types of e-cigarettes and vapes, where tobacco or nicotine solutions are heated to temperatures lower than cigarettes. They are usually battery-operated devices that emit doses of vaporized nicotine, or non-nicotine solutions, for the user to inhale. It aims to provide a similar sensation to inhaling tobacco smoke, without the tar and other harmful byproducts that are present in cigarette smoke.
The pros and cons of ecigarettes, which contains a small cartridge with a solution of nicotine and other flavourings, have been subject to a global debate for years. In India, the matter took heat when in August 2018, the health ministry issued an advisory to all states and union territories to ensure that the ENDS are not sold, manufactured, distributed, traded, imported and advertised in their jurisdictions. Since then, the case has been dragged in the court.
In May 2019, the Delhi High Court extended its stay on the ban on a Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) order banning the sale, manufacture, distribution, trade, import and advertisement of ENDS including e-cigarettes, till August 22, the next date fixed for further hearing.
In a hearing on Friday (July 12), Delhi HC passed an order directing the Delhi Government to file an affidavit showing steps taken by them for regulating ENDS in the state. The court noted the urgency of the matter by highlighting that many children are picking up ENDS such as ecigarettes without knowing the harm it can cause.
As a response to this order, the voluntary association of Trade Representatives of ENDS in India (TRENDS) submitted a representation to the chief secretary, Delhi Government with copies to Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal and Health Minister, SatyendraKumar Jain.
The TRENDS association, which consists of importers, distributors, and marketers of ENDS devices urged the Delhi government to consider the viewpoints of all concerned stakeholders and suggested that there should have a policy framework for this critical product that provides a harm reduction option to smokers.
It is to be noted that according to the World Health Organisation, India had 266.8 Mn tobacco users and people exposed to secondhand smoke in 2018 in the $12 Bn cigarette market. In India, brands such as Juul, Alt Vapors, Renova and ITC’s Eon are the popular e-cigarette makers, while there are plenty of non-brand China-made e-cigarettes and devices being offered on the market. Euromonitor International estimates that India’s vapour-products market was valued at $15.6 Mn in 2017 and is seen growing nearly 60% annually in the next few years.
In March, at least 12 states in India have banned ENDS, with states like Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Jharkhand taking steps to ban the use of ENDS.
According to a report by Cancer Research UK, ecigarettes are far less harmful than smoking as they don’t contain tobacco or involve combustion. “There is no smoke, tar or carbon monoxide, and studies looking at key toxicants have generally found much lower levels than in cigarettes. They do contain nicotine, which is addictive, but isn’t responsible for the major health harms from smoking,” the report noted.