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Doctors, students, teachers, NGOs urge PM to ban e-cigarettes

GUWAHATI: Over 1000 doctors, 90 Public Health Organizations, 1000 School Students & teachers from across India, have appealed to the Prime Minister for effective enforcement of the ban on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) including E-cigarettes.

Concerned about the aggressive promotion and marketing of ENDS as safe means for quitting smoking, they have urged the Prime Minister and the Union Health Ministry to check the growing popularity of these products, especially amongst the youth.

The groups have lauded the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) for its advisory as a timely measure to tackle the new emerging threat of e-cigarettes in the country.  MoHFW had issued an advisory to all States/UT`s, to ensure that Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), e-Cigarettes, Heat-Not-Burn devices, Vape, e-Sheesha, e-Nicotine Flavoured Hookah, and the like devices that enable nicotine delivery are not sold (including online sale), manufactured, distributed, traded, imported and advertised in their jurisdictions, according a communiqué issued by Consumer Legal Protection Forum (CLPF).

Union Health Secretary, Preeti Sudan, has also written to the Commerce Secretary to block the entry of JUUL, a US based company, manufacturing vaping devices like e-cigarettes, from entering India. Sudan said the entry of JUUL products, if not prevented, could undermine the efforts taken by the Government towards tobacco control.

MoHFW has also appealed against the single-judge order of the Delhi High Court and sought the quashing of its stay on the Directorate General of Health Services Central Drugs Standard Control circular.

A sub-committee group constituted by MoHFW, on health effects of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), considered 251 studies/reports and concluded that there is evidence to prove that the ENDS and its variants, are harmful to users.

This committee of doctors from AIIMS, NCDIR and public health experts has concluded that ENDS are as harmful as any another tobacco product in terms of causing premature deaths and morbidity. According to the committee, that there is no evidence to show that ENDS are less harmful, safe and helpful towards cessation efforts. The medical communities across the globe have also questioned the acceptance of ENDS as a harm reduction or tobacco cessation strategy. 36 countries around the world banned the sale of E-cigarettes due to its health harms.

Thirteen states in India- Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Puducherry, Jharkhand and Mizoram — already banned the use and sale of E-cigarettes, Vape & E-Hookah due to its health harms based on the advisory from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).

However, a study conducted by CONSUMER VOICE, in 5 major cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Lucknow, found 36 brands of E-Cigarette available for purchase, despite these being banned in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh. EON, promoted and sold by ITC in India, leads as the highest available brand.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has also issued an amendment to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2018 to ban the advertisement of e-cigarettes. Even the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs issued a circular saying that all import consignments of e-cigarettes must be cleared by the drug controller first.

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