The recent move of the Narendra Modi government to ban e-cigarettes or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) has, on expected lines, evoked mixed reactions. There are distinctive voices opposing the decision.
They say the move robs smokers of an effective aid to kick the habit away and also derails tobacco cessation efforts. The Centre is also accused of bowing to the tobacco industry, which is increasingly being threatened by the declining consumption and the emergence of alternatives.
Yet, the step is a welcome one as it would prevent a situation where the cure is worse than the disease. Worldwide, e-cigarettes have raised serious concerns, with vaping-related illnesses triggering a public health crisis in the US. At least seven deaths have directly been linked to vaping in the last few days, while more and more young and healthy people with no other associated illnesses are being admitted to intensive care units with severe respiratory problems. The WHO has already warned of e-cigarettes causing a new health epidemic in the world, with its market expanding three times to $19.5 billion in only five years.
ENDS market in India is estimated to be around `15 crore and growing, with the major consumer base being the youth. The so-called safe alternative might just snowball into another grave crisis if left unchecked. India is currently witnessing a marked decline in tobacco use. According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, India, 2016-17 (GATS-2), the average age of initiation to tobacco has registered a significant increase from 17.9 years in GATS-1 (2009-10) to 18.9 years now. Tobacco use among 15-24 years age group has come down from 18.4% to 12.4%—a whopping 33% rate of decline. Tobacco use among 15-17 and 18 to 24-year-olds has reduced by 54% and 28% respectively. Overall tobacco use is down to 28% from 34.6% in GATS-1.
The positive developments are sheerly on account of increasing awareness about the dangers of tobacco in the general population. There are plenty of tobacco cessation aids available. ENDS certainly is not one. The Centre has taken the right step to nip the danger in the bud and should stand strong in its stance.