International experts have called on the Health Ministry to change its stand on electronic cigarettes and legalise safer alternatives to tobacco products available in India. In a recent advisory, the Health Ministry had asked the states and Union territories to ban the use of Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS).
ENDS includes e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn devices, vape, e-sheesha, e-nicotine-flavoured hookah and other devices that enable nicotine delivery. The ministry has adopted a policy on vaping that will harm the health of millions of Indians and protect and entrench smoking, Dr Alex Wodak, former president of the International Harm Reduction Association, said.
“Countries that aim to eradicate tobacco use usually get terrible results. It’s much more effective to try and reduce the initiation and continuing use of tobacco products as well as encouraging less risky options,” Wodak said. Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, a research fellow at the National School of Public Health, Greece, said nicotine, while addictive, is not particularly harmful.
“E-cigarettes and other vaping products eliminate combustion and provide nicotine in a much cleaner form,” he said. In 2014, Professor Farsalinos and co-author Professor Riccardo Polosa had published a systematic review of the evidence on e-cigarettes.
“We found they are much safer than cigarette smoking. The evidence since then has convincingly confirmed this.” Professor Farsalinos said evidence shows vape products have led millions to quit smoking for good.
“In 2016, I studied the data from the EU and found that vaping had led more than 6 million people to quit smoking and helped millions more cut back.”
Professor David Sweanor, University of Ottawa, said Canada was among the countries that initially tried to ban vaping products but recently switched to actively encouraging smokers to switch based on the science. “We urge the Indian government to legalize and regulate safer alternatives to the tobacco products currently available in India. E-cigarettes and safer alternatives to India’s high-risk tobacco options should be appropriately regulated,” he said.