E-CIGARETTE BAN & THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT
30, Aug 2019
Prelims level : Governance- Policies, Science & Technology Mains level : GS-II- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Why in News?
- One of the three 100-day goals the health ministry has set for itself, The Prohibition of E-cigarettes Ordinance 2019 is being sent to a Group of Ministers as directed by the Prime Minister’s Office.
What Are E-cigarettes?
- An e-cigarette, short for electronic cigarette, is a battery-operated device.
- One of a large variety of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), an e-cigarette emits vaporised nicotine, or non-nicotine solutions.
- The user inhales it looking for a sensation similar to inhaling tobacco smoke, but without the smoke.
- The pros and cons of e-cigarettes are hotly debated, with the industry refuting scientific evidence about the product being harmful, and users urging the government to legalise it. India’s market for e-cigarettes, while nascent today, is projected to grow annually at more than 25 per cent in the next five years.
The Prohibition of E-cigarettes Ordinance 2019:
- The draft ordinance was necessitated by the fact that an earlier order by the Centre asking the states to crack down against e-cigarettes could not stand judicial scrutiny.
- However, a recent order, in which the High Court threw out a petition asking for protection from an ordinance against e-cigarettes, has emboldened the Health Ministry, which now seeks legal backing for a ban (rather than just an advisory) in the form of an ordinance.
- The ordinance makes any violation of its provisions punishable by imprisonment of one to three years, and a fine of Rs 1-5 lakh.
- Some states, including Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Mizoram, have already banned use and sale of e-cigarettes, vape and e-hookah.
- Under the Constitution, health is a state subject, so any move to ban manufacture and sale of a product on health grounds needs to come from the state government.
- In February, the Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation had written to all state drug controllers, saying they should not allow sale, online sale, manufacture, distribution, trade, import or advertisement of ENDS.
- The Delhi High Court stayed the Centre’s circular banning sale and manufacture of ENDS like e-cigarettes and e-hookah with nicotine flavour, saying as the products were not a “drug”.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)’s Scientific Position:
- The use of ENDS or e-cigarettes adversely affects almost all the human body systems with impact across the life course, from the womb to tomb.
- The cartridges used in ENDS or e-cigarettes are filled with liquid nicotine, flavouring agents and other chemicals.
- A typical cartridge contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes and can act as a potential source for nicotine addiction.
- Studies on these nicotine solvents had shown a varied degree of release of potential carcinogens, depending on the battery output voltage.
- The liquid-vaporizing solutions also contain toxic chemicals and metals that have been demonstrated to be responsible for several adverse health effects, including cancers and diseases of the heart, lungs and brain.
- The current unregulated sale of e-cigarettes is dangerous for a country like India where the number of smokers is on the decline (WHO Global Report, 2015) as it increases the possibility of e-cigarettes becoming a gateway for smoking by inducing nicotine addiction and perpetuating smoking by making it more attractive, thereby encouraging persons to become users of tobacco as well as e-cigarettes.