Sample surveys of companies that are marketing e-cigarettes in the country have found that Hyderabad has the highest sale of such products, and that people believe that it is not as harmful as an actual cigarette. A single pack sells for Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 and is bought online. The central government issued an advisory last year, following which 12 states in India banned ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) but the Telangana government has put the file ‘under consideration’.
A senior health official said, “The government is looking at proper scientific evidence whether e-cigarettes are actually harmful. Officers have received more than 200 different reports and assessments and want to consider it thoroughly before implementing the ban. Earlier, a senior Indian Medical Association (IMA) doctor had stated that it is bad, and then did a complete reversal. These statements have made the government want to look into it closely.” An electronic cigarette is a device that uses a battery and contains a solution of nicotine, flavourings, and other chemicals, some of which may be harmful.
When electronic cigarettes are used, the nicotine solution turns into a mist that can be inhaled into the lungs. The amount of nicotine in individual e-cigarettes can vary, according to National Cancer Society.
A major issue is the strong tobacco growers’ and industry lobby in both Telugu states. The raw material for the tobacco products have the two states supplying them and it will directly hit these people which is also making the TS government mull over it.
Tobacco is grown in both states and a ban will impact livelihoods. Dr Prakash C. Gupta, senior doctor and public health advocate points out that while there is a lot of awareness about the harmful effects of cigarettes, e-cigarettes are believed not to be harmful. “The marketing tactic has got youngsters to believe that it is safe, which is wrong. The fact is that it has nicotine and that is harmful,” he says. There is mounting evidence that ENDS is just another tobacco product and the effects are the same.
Experts are rejecting the claim that it is a harm reduction product. It does not help anyone quit smoking, and, like a conventional cigarette, can be addictive. With many states banning it, such products must also be banned in Telangana State, say experts, though it could be said that to do so without also banning conventional cigarettes would be an act of hypocrisy.
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