NEW DELHI: Slamming the Central government on passing the ordinance prohibiting manufacture and sales of e-cigarettes, Director of Association of Vapers India (AVI), Samrat Choudhary said it is a black day for 11 crore smokers in India who have been deprived of safer options.
Speaking to ANI, Choudhary said, "It is a black day for 11 crore smokers in India who have been deprived of safer options. The government may be patting its back for banning e-cigarettes but this is a draconian move considering the risk to the health of crores of smokers."
AVI said the ordinance will put lives at risk, adding that the haste shown by the government in enacting a ban indicates it is more concerned about protecting the cigarette industry than improving public health.
ALSO READ | Centre bans sales and production of e-cigarettes
The consumer body said this regressive step has come as a set back for various stakeholders who have taken initiatives in promoting tobacco harm reduction.
"On one hand we talk about transitioning from a developing to a developed nation but on the other, we are closing our doors to new technology that has been embraced globally by governments and used by millions worldwide to quit smoking," he added.
"From the start, the government has not been considerate about public health or public welfare, backing biased scientific evidence which has been rebutted by scientists from across the world for cherry-picking and misinterpreting research to target Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS)," said Choudhary.
"What appears to matter more to the government is protecting its 28 per cent stake in the country's cigarette monopoly ITC. So hellbent was the government on a ban that it also banned any research into ENDS so that the facts about their relative safety to smoking could be subdued," Director added.
Chowdhery said, "We will continue to fight for the rights of e-cigarette users and smokers looking to quit or reduce harm to themselves. Apart from exploring legal options, we will also raise the issue at national and international forums. The government has snatched the right of India's 11 crore people to harm reduction. This cannot be allowed to happen."
"Our aim is to help solve the country's tobacco problem that claims 13.5 lakh lives and causes loss of Rs 1,50,000 crore annually. This requires innovative thinking as the current measures are not wholly effective. What we had not accounted for, however, was that we would have to fight our own government to save the lives of our people," he said.
It is important to note that the Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the promulgation of the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertisement) Ordinance, 2019.
The ban on e-cigarettes includes the strict prohibition on production, import, distribution, sale and use of electronic cigarettes along with imprisonment and penalty for violators.
The draft ordinance, which was proposed by the health ministry, stated maximum imprisonment of up to one year along with a penalty of Rs 1 lakh against first-time violators.
The ministry had also recommended a maximum of up to three years in jail and a penalty of Rs five lakh for habitual offenders.