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Insights into Editorial: E-cigarette ban prevents a disease from becoming life-threatening


Insights into Editorial: E-cigarette ban prevents a disease from becoming life-threatening


Introduction:

Smoking-related diseases rank among the greatest public health problems of the last century.

Smoking, it is feared, will kill around a sixth of the world’s population in the 21st century.

Needless to say, tobacco is the cheapest source of nicotine. Therefore, pure nicotine is a myth and not a reality. The government of India is working towards the reduction of tobacco cultivation.

However, there are positive signs. As per the second Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2016, India has seen the steepest decline in tobacco consumption (17 per cent) in any part of the world.

There could be several reasons for this, but certainly not because e-cigarettes, “offer a path to quitting” to older smokers.

 

E-cigarette Addiction:

  • E-cigarette is a nicotine containing device that is owned or promoted by the cigarette industry.
  • The basis of e-cigarette promotion was its safety vis-a-vis conventional cigarettes.
  • E-cigarettes are claimed to contain nicotine minus the carcinogens in traditional cigarettes.
  • However, nicotine is even more addictive than cocaine. Currently, there is no treatment for nicotine addiction.
  • Moreover, nicotine even in its pure form is potentially carcinogenic. A dose of 30-50 mg of nicotine can kill an adult human.
  • It is known that among those who use e-cigarettes to stop smoking, 25 per cent use along it with cigarette and 75 per cent continue to use it even after quitting smoking.

 

 

Adverse effects of E-cigarette Addiction:

  • Smoking is injurious to health, and the use of tobacco products has been linked to a host of diseases, including various cancers and cardiovascular ailments.
  • According to WHO, tobacco causes over 10 million deaths annually in India.
  • In the US, the figure stands at 4,80,000. “Vaping”, or the use of e-cigarettes (called ENDS or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems), has resulted so far in seven confirmed deaths in the US.
  • The US has been rocked by vaping related cases of severe lung sickness. There have been 21 deaths in the past three months.
  • Cigarettes, chewing tobacco and related products continue to be legal in India, and through being heavily taxed as well as via the government’s stake in domestic tobacco giants, significantly add to the earnings of the exchequer.
  • Recently, the Union government announced an ordinance banning ENDS.
  • In terms of first principles as well the purported concern for citizens’ health, the ban on e-cigarettes smacks of hypocrisy and an arbitrary exercise of executive authority.

 

Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Ordinance:

The total economic cost attributable to tobacco use for all diseases in 2011 amounted to Rs 1,04,500 crore, which is equivalent to 1.04% of the GDP.

The disease burden due to tobacco poses enormous and inequitable economic loss to society and also presents a formidable challenge to the country’s health care systems.

The Promulgation of the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Ordinance provides for imprisonment of up to one year and/or fines up to Rs 1 lakh for the first offence, imprisonment of up to three years and a fine up to Rs 5 lakh for a subsequent offence.

 

Few Concerns that need to be Addressed:

Those possessing ENDS must suo motu turn them over at the local police station, else face the harsh consequences of the executive decree.

Meanwhile, the tobacco industry has welcomed the move and share prices of ITC and VST Industries registered a sharp increase in the wake of the ban.

In the worst-case scenario, vaping will be as bad as smoking. And like cigarettes, ENDS must be regulated, come with health warnings, not be sold to minors, etc.

For older smokers, it can offer a path to quitting and for the youth, it can be aspirational.

That the Centre has refused even to engage with this aspect, and, instead moved to push vaping underground by banning it shows laziness in engaging with a complex problem.

If Prohibition does not work, A conversation about the reasons for addiction just might.

 

Conclusion:

The e-cigarette ban is a symptom of a larger malaise governing by the brute force of a hammer when the subtlety of a scalpel is required. “Vaping” is as much a social and cultural phenomenon as it is a public health issue.

The use of tobacco should be seen as a historical mistake. We now have opportunity to correct this mistake and protect next generation from the killer tobacco industry.

The ban is targeted at removing a cancer that was threatening the life of unsuspecting users.

Commerce, social factors and the absence of state regulations play important roles in people getting hooked to tobacco.