The health ministry is considering measures to ban Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) after a technical committee evaluated recent research that e-cigarettes are potentially lethal.
An e-cigarette is a smoking battery-operated device that uses liquid nicotine, propylene glycol, water, glycerin and flavour to give a user the sense of smoking a real cigarette.
A ban is also being considered as e-cigarettes may not actually be less toxic option and are far from being a placebo and would weaken the public campaign to highlight the health hazards of smoking.
“E-cigarettes are just a mechanism to deliver nicotine in an attractive format. 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, people should not get lured into puffing e-cigs because they too, are harmful,” said Bhavna B Mukhopadhyay, chief executive, Voluntary Health Association of India.
In the absence of provisions under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), the health ministry is now examining other laws such as the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and the Food Safety & Standards (prohibition and restriction on sales) Regulation, 2011 to come out with strong rules.
“COTPA does not have a provision to ban and therefore, we are faced with the challenge of finding a strong provision. We are convinced about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes but if we do not back it up with a strong pro vision under the law them it will fall flat in the courts,” a senior official told TOI.
Health secretary C K Mishra said, “We are looking into all aspects of e-cigarettes and working on a methodology to contain the harm from it.” He added, the ministry is likely to come up with a decision on the matter very soon.
Experts say liquid nicotine – the main ingredient in e-cigarettes -has still not been registered as a drug in India and therefore, the Centre can use the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, to prohibit sale of products containing it.
However, the Centre is being cautious in using this provision because it fears that companies may challenge such a move.
Some of the states including Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab, J&K, Mizoram & Maharashtra have banned e-cigarettes under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Food Safety & Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulation, 2011. Health experts say e-cigarettes are mostly being used by children and youth. Though not generally available in stores, they are widely promoted through social media, email marketing with discount offers.
According to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), e-cigarettes emits nicotine, the addictive component of tobacco products. In addition to dependence, nicotine can have adverse effects on the development of the fetus during pregnancy and may contribute to cardiovascular disease.
The WHO report further says that though nicotine itself is not a carcinogen, it may function as a “tumour promoter” and seems to be involved in the biology of malignant disease, as well as of neurodegeneration.
Fetal and adolescent nicotine exposure may have long-term consequences for brain development, potentially leading to learning and anxiety disorders.