Vapers want ban reconsidered

Last week, Tamil Nadu joined a small group of States in the country to ban Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) — e-cigarettes.

While the Directorate of Public Health is taking measures to strictly implement the ban, including curbing online sale, the vaping community is of the view that a ban is not the answer, and is demanding a rethink.

The ban, according to health officials, was brought in after taking into account the health effects of using e-cigarettes and to prevent initiation by non-smokers and youth. “Nicotine is an addiction producing substance. E-cigarettes contain concentrated nicotine,” a public health official said.

Vapers feel that the government’s decision is not evidence-based. “The ban is draconian,” said Samrat Chowdhery, director, Association of Vapers India. “By banning e-cigarettes, the government has removed a safer alternative to smoking. They are limiting the options for people to quit smoking,” he said.

He noted that they had submitted research papers to the Health Department, but they were not taken into consideration.

“We had requested the department to take an evidence-based approach and look at credible scientific basis. Instead of a ban, ENDS can be regulated. Technology can be utilised to build in effective measures to ensure that it does not end up in the hands of teenagers,” he said. AVI is exploring the options of challenging the ban legally.

Cary Edwards, who quit smoking and took up vaping, said, “What people seem to be missing is that this was a product designed for a specific purpose — to stop smoking. I smoked for over 22 years. When I quit thanks to vaping, I used to smoke 40 cigarettes a day. I have not smoked in a year, and I no longer like the smell or taste of cigarette,” he said. The ban, he said, was “a regressive and an anti-science move” on the part of the government.

‘Move debatable’

“Use of e-cigarettes as a cessation therapy is debatable,” Arvind Krishnamurthy, professor and head, Surgical Oncology, Cancer Institute, observed. “E-cigarettes were initially marketed as a safe product that can potentially aid in tobacco cessation. However, over the years, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that e-cigarettes are potentially harmful as well, although not to the extent of the conventional cigarettes. From a technical stand point, the evidence pointing to the hazards of vaping stems from low-quality published evidence. However, it must be stressed that a mere absence of such evidence does not translate to an absence of harm,” he said.

The world is witnessing an alarming increase in the incidence of teenagers taking to vaping, he said, adding, “As we wait for more evidence of the long term hazards of vaping, one thing is clear, there needs to be a formal regulation/ban in place till such a time comes,” Dr. Krishnamurthy added.

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