E-cigarettes BAN: Health experts question Gujarat tobacco farmers stand on ordinance
New Delhi: A group of public health experts on Wednesday questioned the locus standi of the associations of Gujarat tobacco farmers and merchants in seeking a review of bringing an ordinance to ban e-cigarettes, and claimed the prohibition will not impact their livelihood. They said the advertisement, put up by Gujarat Tobacco Merchants Association and Gujarat Tobacco Growers and Merchants Association in the national dailies appealing the Prime Minister to intervene and reconsider the decision, is "misleading".
In their advertisement, the association on Tuesday stated that farmer and traders of tobacco are already going though a crisis ever since the ban on gutkha was implemented and providing crop to nicotine manufacturers is their only small outlet.
"The arguments put forward by these groups in the advertisement are misleading as the ordinance to ban E-cigarettes is only addressing a type of nicotine delivery system and not nicotine per sake.
"This ordinance does not refer to cultivation, manufacturing of tobacco or nicotine or its export, so therefore it has no impact on them," Dr Prakash C Gupta, Director, Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health said.
Presently India does not manufacture or export e-cigarettes and it is imported from China. Therefore the ordinance does not impact the livelihood of tobacco and nicotine, farmers, manufacturers and traders, said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive, Voluntary Health Association of India.
"The Ordinance is supplementing and supporting the efforts made by 18 state governments with a common public health goal of eliminating this new form of addiction," she said.
The Union Health Ministry is currently working on an ordinance to ban the production, import, distribution and sale of electronic cigarettes and has proposed jail term for violaters.
While the move was welcomed by public health groups and doctors, the association of trade representatives of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) in India comprising importers, distributors and marketers along with a consumer body accused the Centre of ignoring the "opinions of stakeholders". They claimed that such devices offer safer alternative smoking options.
"E-cigarettes pose significant health risks and also risk as a gateway to smoking imitation for young people once they have become addicted. They are being marketed as a harm reduction product which is contrary to the truth. Youngsters are being lured as it is easily available in different flavours," A Srikanth, Secretary, Indian Dental Association, Deccan Branch said.
States including Punjab, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh have already banned the use and sale of e-cigarettes, vaporizers and e-hookah.
Apex medical research body, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended a complete ban on ENDS, saying their use can initiate nicotine addiction among non-smokers also.
The Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation (CDSCO) in February wrote to all state drug controllers, asking them to not allow the sale, manufacturing, distribution, trade, import and advertisement of ENDS.
The Delhi High Court has stayed the Centre's circular banning sale and manufacture of ENDS, saying the products were not a "drug" and the authorities have no jurisdiction to issue such a direction.