Meeting called by health ministry to regulate e-cigarettes inconclusive

There is abundance of evidence that e-cigarettes are harmful but no progress made in 'national consultations' as some participants demanded more research

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Tuesday 08 July 2014

Most e-cigarettes are manufactured to look like conventional cigarettes, cigars, or pipes (Image credit: USFDA)The efforts being made by the Union health ministry to check use of e-cigarettes seems to have made little headway. The ministry organised a round table on Friday to look into the matter but it failed to arrive at any conclusion.

Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes are battery-powered cigarettes which are marketed as a healthier alternative to smoking because they are smokeless—a liquid solution containing nicotine and flavourings is vaporised to simulate tobacco smoking in them.

An official in the health department said that the meeting was a national consultation to look into the possibilities of regulating e-cigarettes. Scientists and civil society members were invited to present their views at the consultations. Some of the perticipants emphasised on the need for more research. Additonal secretary C K Mishra, president of Public Health Foundation of India, S K Reddy and Pankaj Chaturvedi from Tata Memorial Hospital were present in the meeting.

On condition of anonymity, a participant said the meeting was futile. “Though it is serious public health issue, people say more evidence needs to be gathered when it is already available in abundance,” he said expressing disappointment.

“These policy makers want more time to look into the issue and a few are talking about the need of more research,” he said.

Down to Earth had earlier published articles about research carried out in other parts of the world, including Korea and the US, which show that e-cigarette is harmful

Global push for declaring it tobacco product

World Health Organization is also pushing governments to keep e-cigarette in same category as tobacco product. On June 16, as many as 129 public experts from 31 countries wrote to WHO director general, Margaret Chan, demanding the same.

They wrote: “There is already good evidence that ENDS emissions release several toxic substances into the environment that cause harm to health.  These substances include ultrafine particles, propylene glycol, tobacco-specific nitrosamines; nicotine; volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and carcinogens and reproductive toxins, including benzene, lead, nickel, and others. Proposals to allow ENDS use in indoor spaces like workplaces, bars and transportation could see significant exposure to these substances.”

They requested WHO to not get into the trap of tobacco industry and its well planned strategy to cater new market.

Punjab was the first state to ban e-cigarettes. A notification in September 2013 issued by the Punjab State Drug Controller declared e-cigarettes illegal because they contain nicotine, which is an unapproved drug and contravenes the Drugs & Cosmetics Act. Maharashtra is also planning to ban them.


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