India plans to approve a ban on the manufacturing and sale of e-cigarettes, after vaping gets a bad rap globally following the death of six people in the United States recently.
USA plans to impose a blanket ban on flavoured e-cigarettes because of the controversial health implications surrounding them.
A study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in 2018 warned of a potential public health disaster due to the unregulated use of these items.
On Wednesday, 18th September, the Finance Minister and the Environmental Minister with the Health Secretary, Ms. Preeti Sudan addressed a press conference announcing the creation of an ordinance banning e-cigarettes and End Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS).
This ordinance will be taken up for discussion in the next session of the Parliament.
India's Current Scenario
In India, currently 14 States and Union Territories have prohibited the manufacturing, distribution, import and sale of e-cigarettes and other systems.
The health ministry classified e-cigarettes and Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems as items for tobacco cessation and classified them as drugs.
They further advised states to not permit the sale of the aforementioned items which enable nicotine delivery and eventually plan to ban import.
Around 460 e-cigarette brands in 7700 different flavours with various amounts of nicotine are currently available in the country.
Internationally, 30 countries such as Australia, Brazil, Thailand have already put a blanket ban on these devices.
BOOM contacted Dr. Joy Kumar Chakma, scientist at ICMR to understand his perspective about the ordinance.
"The ICMR collaborated with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to understand the potential challenges of e-cigarettes. They are not legalised in the country and are distributed illegally."
"The ban on e-cigarettes is a ministry initiative and decision," Dr. Chakma continued.
The ordinance plans to impose hefty fines of up to Rs. 1 lakh and/or jail for 1 year for first time offenders, fine of Rs. 5 lakh and/or jail for 3 years for repeat offenders. Storage of e-cigarettes can lead to a fine of Rs. 50,000 and/or a fine of 6 months.
What Is Vaping?
E-cigarettes work on the principle of vaping.
Vaping is when a liquid is heated to turn into steam for inhaling purposes. E-cigarettes are heated and the vapors of nicotine as well as the flavours are then inhaled.
E-cigarettes are considered to be less harmful than traditional smoking. But, a recent string of studies is changing this perspective.
Ill-Effects Of Vaping
E-cigarettes were marketed as tools for reducing smoking but are in turn equally addictive for consumers.
The number of vapers increased by 1.5 million in 2018 in the United States, according to the Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention.
Vaping leads to the shortness of breath, fever and fatigue after several days of vomiting, as well as lung irritation.
BOOM spoke to Dr. Aditya Agarwal, pulmonologist at Opera House Clinic to understand the ill-effects of vaping.
"I think e-cigarettes are equally harmful if not more, as cigarettes. This is replacing one form of smoke with another."
"We come across a lot of patients who want to quit smoking and have moved to e-cigarettes and have still continued to have health issues," Dr. Agarwal continued.
He even stated that e-cigarettes also contribute to lung diseases including pneumonia.
Studies across the world have suggested various ill-effects of flavoured e-cigarettes. From harming the cardiovascular system, impairing lining of the lungs and causing troubles in breathing, reducing the body's ability to fight infections, causing irritation, to the death of six individuals in USA.
The study saying that flavours in e-cigarettes can cause irritation was conducted by Duke and Yale Universities. They scientifically proved that not only nicotine but the other flavours are also carcinogenic and harmful.
While vaping, the flavours are mixed with solvents, which when heated are left over and can lead to lung inflammation. The study also mentions the scientific conversion of flavours such as vanilla, cherry, citrus, ad cinnamon mix with other chemicals to form acetals which act as irritants.
The products do not mention using these products.
An independent body called Association of Vapers India (AVI) is opposing the government's move to ban vaping and believes it is a healthy alternative to quitting smoking.
BOOM contacted Samrat Chowdhery, the spokesperson for the association but has not heard back from him. The story will be updated on the basis of his response
Current Global Scenario
30 countries have currently banned e-cigarettes with USA in the pipeline to ban flavoured e-cigarettes.
Nicotine is not the only toxic compound in the e-cigarettes as the studies suggest.
After 6 deaths of youngsters reported in the United States due to vaping and another 450 cases of complaints of lung problems due to vaping, US President, Donald Trump stated that he would ban the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes in the country.
Juul, which is one of the leading brands of flavoured e-cigarettes is ideally supposed to be consumed by people over 21. However, there has been a rampant increase in teen vaping cases and consumption of Juul in the United States.
UK on the other hand, faced flak for suggesting that they would not face such an issue. This would be due to the yellow card system they have in place to regulate the quality, safety, and distribution of flavoured e-cigarettes under the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
This agency encourages vapers to report any bad experiences.