Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), also called e-cigarettes, personal vaporizers, vape pens, e-cigars, e-hookah, or vaping devices, are products that produce an aerosolized mixture containing flavoured liquids and nicotine that is inhaled by the user.
Although they are projected as ‘tobacco cessation’ products by various sellers, the lack of concrete evidence in support of this claim make them a serious public health threat
This is coupled with the absence of any regulatory approval for their use.
This is especially the case when one considers the increasing import of e-cigarettes into the country.
As e-cigarettes contain nicotine and not tobacco, they do not fall within the ambit of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA), which mandates stringent health warnings on the packaging and advertisements of tobacco products.
Most e-commerce websites sell e-cigarettes as therapeutic products which enable people to quit smoking.
They do not even mention health warnings.
E-cigarettes are not meant for non-smokers.
Other dangers posed by e-cigarettes, which do not feature in the health warnings, are the possibilities of the product exploding (incidents have been reported globally) and accidental consumption of the liquid inside the e-cigarette, which leads to death.
The current unregulated sale of e-cigarettes is dangerous for a country like India where the number of smokers is on the decline (WHO Global Report, 2015)
It increases the possibility of e-cigarettes becoming a gateway for smoking by inducing nicotine addiction and perpetuating smoking by making it more attractive, thereby encouraging persons to become users of tobacco as well as e-cigarettes.
The Indian government has been slow to respond.
Since the first declaration of its intention to ban e-cigarettes containing nicotine in 2014, only Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka and Punjab have implemented the ban.
The State governments are adopting different routes: Punjab has classified nicotine as a poison, while Maharashtra treats it as an unapproved drug.
Lack of a uniform approach in dealing with this public health problem will not only jeopardise the health of the people, but will also enable the sellers of such products slip through the holes.