The Union health ministry is planning to issue an advisory to all states on the health risks of electronic smoking, even as it is in a quandary over which legal provisions it should be banned under. The advisory is likely to mention that products such as e-cigarettes, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), nicotine and flavoured hookah are extremely harmful to health and that they have not been approved in any form by the ministry of health and family welfare.
Also, as recommended by an expert group, the import, manufacture, distribution, sale, including online promotion, advertising etc. in any manner of nontherapautic nicotine as an extract or in chemical form and e-cigarettes, remains illegal and a violation of existing laws. “The public will be advised, in their own interest, not to use any such products, sold or marketed in any form and under any name or brand,” a senior ministry official said.
According to the senior health ministry official, the health ministry is in quandary over whether to ban e-cigarettes under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, or the Poisons Act 1919. Some states, including Punjab, Chandigarh, Haryana, Kerala, Mizoram, Karnataka, and Jammu and Kashmir have already banned e-cigarettes as an unapproved drug.
While all of them have banned it under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, some have added the Poisons Act, 1919. “Nicotine has been declared as a lethal and hazardous substance under the Environment (Protection) Act and Insecticide Act,” the official said. In 2013, the Ministry of Health had formed an expert group to assess and report on various forms of “Nicotine Delivery Devices”.
The expert group in its final report in July this year stated that scientific evidence clearly indicates that any form of use of nicotine or the use of Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS) is hazardous. It also said that, besides, causing many forms of health disorders, nicotine is also classified as a poison and is fatal for human beings even in small dosage.
Three sub-committees formed to examine the legal, advocacy and health aspects of e-cigarettes had strongly recommended a ban on them, stating that they have cancer-causing properties. An e-cigarette or an ENDS is a smoking battery-powered device that uses liquid nicotine, propylene glycol, water, glycerin and flavour to produce a sense of smoking a real cigarette for the user.
“Though companies claim that e-cigarettes help give up smoking, but in reality they help initiate cigarette smoking as they deliver nicotine in an attractive way and attract youth,” the official said. According to a WHO report, e-cigarettes emit nicotine, the addictive component in tobacco products. Experts say e-cigarettes contain liquid nicotine, which is not a registered drug in India.