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Stop Ordinance to Ban E-Cigarettes: Guj Traders, ENDS Trade Reps

Associations of Gujarat tobacco farmers and merchants on Tuesday, 10 Septmeber, backed the demand made by trade representatives of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), including e-cigarettes, seeking a review of the government’s decision to bring an ordinance to ban such “alternative” smoking devices.The Union Health ministry is working on an ordinance to ban the production, import, distribution and sale of electronic cigarettes and has proposed jail term for violaters.

While the move was welcomed by public health groups and doctors, the voluntary association of Trade Representatives of ENDS in India (TRENDS) comprising importers, distributors and marketers of alternative smoking devices accused the Centre of ignoring the “opinions of stakeholders”.

“It is strange and dubious how the health ministry has decided to ban such devices when the minister of state had recently informed parliament that only 3 per cent of the population was aware about e-cigarettes,” Praveen Rikhy, convenor of TRENDS said.Praveen Rikhy”What was the emergency? How could e-cigarettes be the greatest challenge being faced by this government”

Corroborating her views, Bhikhubhai N Patel, President of the Gujarat Tobacco Merchants Association said, “This is an issue that can have adverse impact on the livelihoods of farmers in Gujarat.” “We have seen repeated attempts by global lobbies to hurt the tobacco trade and the eventual burden is borne by the farmer. We plead with the government to not encourage these lobbies to attack the tobacco trade, the nascent nicotine processing industry and the farmer of Gujarat,” Patel said.Consumer body Association of Vapers India (AVI) too slammed the government accusing it of putting the lives of 110 million smokers at risk by acting against “less harmful alternatives” like e-cigarettes while allowing cigarettes and bidis, which kill over a million Indians a year, to be sold freely.

Raising doubts on the “scientific evidence” based on which the government is bringing the ordinance, AVI said: “Well-regarded public health institutions like the US Food and Drug Administration, UK’s Royal College of Physicians and American Cancer Society have found e-cigarettes to be up to 95 per cent less harmful than smoking cigarettes.” Meanwhile, over 1000 students, 90 public health organisations, 1000 doctors and teachers from across India have appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ban ENDS.

Concerned about the aggressive promotion and marketing of such devices as safe means for quitting smoking, they urged the Prime Minister and the health ministry to check the growing popularity of these products, especially amongst youngsters.Several states like Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Mizoram have already banned the use and sale of e-cigarettes, vaporizers and e-hookah.

Apex medical research body– the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – has recommended a “complete ban” on ENDS, saying their use can initiate nicotine addiction among non-smokers also.

The Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation (CDSCO) in February had written to all state drug controllers, asking them to not allow the sale including online, manufacturing, distribution, trade, import and advertisement of ENDS.

Earlier, the Delhi High Court had stayed the Centre’s circular banning sale and manufacture of ENDS, saying the products were not a “drug” and the authorities had no jurisdiction to issue such a direction.

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