The Indian government’s decision to ban e-cigarettes in September was scrutinised in the United Kingdom Parliament this week, with some members claiming it was “not based on evidence” and questioning whether it was a result of a “massive vested public interest” in the country’s tobacco industry.
India, on September 18, approved an ordinance prohibiting electronic cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems like vapes, e-hookahs and e-cigars in the country, making their possession and trade a punishable offence. India’s e-cigarette ban was referenced during a debate in UK Parliament related to the country’s science and technology committee’s report on the products.
“It is fair to say that opinions on e-cigarettes are divided, both in the UK and globally. It is important that we listen to concerns, while looking objectively at the evidence base and seeking to build it further … I note the right honourable Gentleman’s comments about India and the fact that making decisions too quickly, not based on the research that is available, has unintended consequences,” said Member of Parliament for Bury St Edmunds, Johanna Peta Churchill, who also serves as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health.
She was reiterating the view of Norman Peter Lamb, Member of Parliament for North Norfolk and chair of the select committee that submitted the report. India is “one of several countries” that appears to be responding to the outbreak of lung disease among cannabis vapers “by proposing a ban on nicotine inhalers,” he had said, citing an explanation by UK government executive agency ‘Public Health England’.
“It (Public Health England) has also explained that smoking is far more prevalent in India and causes seven million deaths a year there,” he added.
The Indian Express has viewed a transcript of the debate, which was published on the UK government affiliated website ‘Hansard’, a “substantially verbatim” report of what is said in the country’s Parliament.
“Is it not true that India has a massive vested public interest in the tobacco industry?” asked Member of Parliament for Rother Valley Kevin John Barron.
Lamb responded, “I suspect that the right honourable gentleman knows better than I do, but I note the point that he makes. My view, based on the evidence that the Committee heard, is that the action taken by India is not based on evidence and is likely to result in more people dying of lung cancer.”
The Indian government, as reported earlier, holds stake, directly and through government held entities, in at least two listed companies with exposure to the tobacco business—ITC Ltd and VST Industries.
The Centre cited a study by the Indian Council of Medical Research calling for a complete ban on these products due to their various health risks. The government feels its decision will help protect “especially youth and children” from the risk of nicotine addiction through e-cigarettes.
India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also sought public comments until November 8 on a Bill banning e-cigarettes that it plans to introduce in the upcoming Parliament session starting November 18.
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