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Tobacco harm reduction expert in India: total ban on e-cigarettes is a policy with more disadvantages than benefits


Today, Samrat chowdhery, India's leading tobacco hazard reduction advocate, published an article on the impact of the Indian government's ban on e-cigarettes on the country. Samrat chowdhery believes that a total ban on e-cigarettes is a kind of behavior that does more harm than good, because the ban can rarely be used as a measure to prevent the use of e-cigarettes, and it is likely to promote the development of the black market. The Indian government needs to correct the route and formulate the correct e-cigarette regulatory policies in order to truly reduce the smoking rate and prevent the prevalence of e-cigarettes among teenagers.

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The following is the full text

It has been a year since the Indian government banned e-cigarettes, and it has had enough time to assess its impact, whether it has achieved the intended purpose of preventing young people from smoking and strengthening tobacco policies, and whether there are negative results.

Long before India banned e-cigarettes in September, other low-income countries (Mexico, Brazil and Thailand) issued similar sales bans. In these countries, with the continuous growth of demand, the smuggling and illegal sales of e-cigarettes have become rampant. Neighboring Bhutan recently lifted the 2010 tobacco ban because it barely stopped the increase in tobacco use and promoted large-scale smuggling operations. South Africa also lifted its tobacco ban during the pandemic, fearing that the resulting black market would become entrenched.

As a result, bans are rarely used as a preventive measure with unintended consequences. In the case of e-cigarettes banned in India, the ban also removes protective measures to prohibit minors who are now served by the black market and lacks self-regulation by the legal profession. Crucially, a ban hinders public awareness efforts to stop non-smokers and minors from taking in, thereby leaving the problem under the carpet.

Targeted awareness has achieved positive results in the United States. In the United States, the use of e-cigarettes by teenagers has dropped sharply this year, even though the food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun to regularize e-cigarettes. At the same time, the use of combustible cigarettes among American teenagers and the general population continued to decline, reaching a record low. That's what a good tobacco policy should look like.

In India, we face a greater tobacco burden, and our policies are running in the opposite direction. Bidis is the most commonly used smoking product and by far the most lethal smoking product, killing nearly one million people a year, with little or no tax and even exemption from picture warnings. At the same time, new varieties of flavored tobacco, which have been eliminated worldwide, are also being introduced to attract more people to smoke.

Because most Indians cannot buy nicotine gum or nicotine patches, and there are very few counseling centers for 270 million tobacco users, we also miss the golden opportunity to take advantage of the increased desire to quit during the pandemic without meaningful or adequate support to quit smoking. It turns out that e-cigarettes are twice as much as chewing gum in helping smokers quit smoking, and the price can even be produced at a price that bidi smokers can afford.

As the finance minister, Nirmala sitharaman, announced the e-cigarette ban, which led to a surge in tobacco related stock markets and brought the government more than 10 billion rupees in nominal terms, no discussion of the ban could be completed without assessing its economic impact. Tobacco trade looks like a lucrative but not the case. Tobacco related mortality and incidence rate is 4 times more costly each year. Therefore, it is in the long-term interest of the country to curb the increasing burden of tobacco use, as demonstrated by the increase in tobacco related costs and cancer. In this case, the destruction of risk reduction measures will make the problem exist for a long time and the economic losses will continue to rise.

Although the government said the ban was necessary to prevent the entry of Juul, a U.S. e-cigarette producer, the ban was seen as a protectionist move to protect the domestic tobacco industry, but it ignored the basic reality of India's main ingredients. The e-cigarette trade is an entrepreneur that creates jobs and economic activity, and it also helps India get rid of its deadly smoking. Today, as China's e-cigarette industry has grown into a $5 billion company, in India, due to corruption and the emergence of the black market, we have eliminated the green sector and reduced the means by which smokers actively reduce harm.

Given the negative health and economic impact of the e-cigarette ban, and the intensification of the tobacco epidemic in India, there is now a great need for India to correct its course. In this regard, the government should learn from Hong Kong, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa and Russia. Since India decided to ban safer alternatives to tobacco, these countries have either lifted the ban and regulated e-cigarettes or are considering legislation to regulate them.

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