The article focuses on all aspects of e-cigarettes, studies done by various organisations, and on international regulations regarding the same. It answers questions regarding why the ordinance came into existence and what the ordinance contains.
By: Roopal Dhoot, 2nd Year, BA LLB, Indian Law Society Law College, Pune.
What are e-cigarettes?
Electronic cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a substance (natural or artificial) to create a vapour for inhalation. It is a battery-operated device. E-cigarettes may contain nicotine and flavours and include all forms of electronic nicotine delivery systems- heat-not-burn products, and e-hookahs. The pros and cons of e-cigarettes are very debated.
India’s market for e-cigarettes, while nascent today, is projected to grow annually at more than 25 percent in the next five years.
What’s inside an e-cigarette?
The e-cigarette liquid typically contains nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, flavourings, and other chemicals.
Nicotine is the addictive drug found in regular cigarettes and other tobacco products. Research shows that e-cigarette aerosol often contains substances that can be harmful- including flavouring chemicals, metals (like lead), and other cancer-causing chemicals.
What are the effects of e-cigarettes?
Unlike smoking, the adverse health effects of e-cigarettes are not yet known. But like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes too deliver ultrafine particles and nicotine deep into the lungs, which is then observed by the blood. A 2018 study found the use of e-cigarettes daily was associated with a 79% increase in heart attack risk after other variables were taken into account
Various observations by different organisations:
The apex medical research body said e-cigarettes adversely affect the cardiovascular system, impairs respiratory immune cell function, and airways in a way similar to cigarette smoking, and is responsible for severe respiratory diseases.
Several experts such as WHO and ICMR have noted that the use of e-cigarettes can result in cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. The WHO has also observed that the e-cigarettes are being heavily marketed towards the youth through the use of flavouring and promotional campaigns this has resulted in a rapid increase in the use of e-cigarettes among the youth.
For instance, the percentage of youth using e-cigarettes in the USA has gone up from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 21 percent in 2018.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended a “complete ban” on ENDS, saying their use can initiate nicotine addiction among non-smokers also.
So, while e-cigarettes may be seen as a substitute for traditional cigarettes, they may also act as a gateway for young people to take up more harmful forms of nicotine or start smoking traditional cigarettes. On the other hand, some studies have also shown that the e-cigarettes are substantially less harmful than traditional cigarettes and could aid existing smokers quit. This is because they lack the tar and carbon monoxide of traditional cigarettes.
So, substituting regular cigarettes with e-cigarettes could reduce a smoker’s exposure to harmful toxic substances and carcinogens. However, there is still insufficient evidence to quantify the health risks and the long-term effects of e-cigarettes.
International regulations regarding e-cigarettes:
India is a signatory of WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) which was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco pandemic. In 2014 the WHO FCTC invited all its signatories to consider prohibiting or regulating e-cigarettes in their countries. This is because of the increase in the negative health impact of these products which could result in lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and other illness associated with smoking. So while India has banned the manufacture, trade, and advertisement of e-cigarettes with this ordinance, there is wide variation in the approaches taken by different countries to the regulation of e-cigarettes.
At present, over 30 countries including Brazil, Mexico, and Singapore, and Thailand have banned the production and trade of e-cigarettes. Some other countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and France have brought outlaws to regulate the manufacture, sale, and use of e-cigarettes.²
Why the ordinance came into consideration?
• Under the constitution, health is a state subject, so any move to ban, manufacture, and sale of the product on health grounds needs to come from the state government. That’s why in February Central Drug Standards Control Organisation wrote to the straight drug controllers to prohibit the sale and manufacturing of e-cigarettes. And to prohibit the import, advertisements, trade of ENDS products.
• The Delhi High Court had stayed the center circular banning the sale and manufacture of Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS) like e-cigarettes and e-hookah with nicotine flavour, saying as the products were not a “drug”, the authorities did not have the jurisdiction to issue such a direction.
That’s the only way to implement the order is through the ordinance.
The scientific position on the ban:
• The use of ENDS or E-cigarettes adversely affects almost all the human body systems.
• The cartridges use in ENDS or e-cigarettes are filled with liquid nicotine.
• A typical cartridge contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes.
• The liquid-vapourizing solutions also contain toxic chemicals.
What is in the ordinance?
•Under the ordinance, any person who manufactures, sells, or advertises the use of e-cigarettes in India can attract an imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of one lakh rupees.
• No person is allowed to use any place for storing stocks of e-cigarettes.
Since the ordinance has been in force since September 2019 owners of existing stocks of e-cigarettes have been required to declare and deposit these stocks with an authorized officer.³
Lok Sabha passed the bill calling the ban as a “pre-emptive strike” on the hazardous addiction. The government said that they want to save the large youth population of the country that would have been targeted be e-cigarettes companies. The health minister also said that “less harmful does not mean it is not harmful” as people claim it is less harmful than cigarettes.⁴
The use of tobacco can be seen as a historical mistake as its farming holds its genesis since the British period. We now have the opportunity to correct this mistake and protect the next generation from the killer tobacco industry and its next-generation evolving products and as the consumption of e-cigarettes has a very small customer base, mostly in urban areas. The ban is likely to be very effective as the consumption is at a very nascent stage. The government’s decision to ban e-cigarettes is the way forward towards an addiction-free society.