36 brands of electronic cigarettes operating illegally in India
New Delhi:Even as the union’s health ministry continues its efforts to prevent e-cigarette companies from entering India, a latest investigation found that 36 brands had illegally sold the devices in the country for the past three years.
The survey, released ahead of World Tobacco Day on May 31, was conducted by Consumer Voice, a New Delhi-based nonprofit that advises the government on important people-related issues.
Electronic cigarettes involve a mechanism for delivering nicotine in an attractive format. They are marketed as a harm reduction product which experts say is contrary to the truth.
The devices do not fall within the scope of existing national legislation on the production, distribution and use of tobacco, but pose significant health risks similar to those of conventional cigarettes.
While the union’s Health Ministry has repeatedly written to the Commerce Ministry to ban the entry of e-cigarette brands into India, the country’s health experts have called for a blanket ban on the devices.
Studies have shown that the percentage of college students who start using e-cigarettes and smoking hookah before the age of 10 has increased from 26% to 45% in the past 15 years.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), there were 14 lakh cancer patients in 2016.
Of these, the largest number of cases was lung and oral cancer, which is often caused by tobacco and smoking.
The latest study found that in Delhi, eight brands of electronic cigarettes were sold both online and in stores.
Likewise, these brands were available in Mumbai, Lucknow and elsewhere in the country.
Ashim Sanyal, COO and Secretary of Consumer Voice, said 36 brands of e-cigarettes are currently available illegally, either covertly through vendors or online sites that are unregulated.
“The price of electronic cigarettes sold in stores ranges from Rs 200 to over Rs 6,800 depending on brand, capacity, flavors and variants,” Sanyal told PTI.
“During the investigation, we found that there was no MRP printed on the package in the case of almost all brands. As the government officially tries to ban it from entering India, it is already available illegally, he said.
The survey also found that most of the shoppers were schoolchildren and students in the 12-25 age group, who considered it to be comparatively less harmful than conventional cigarettes.
Currently, as e-cigarette companies try to promote the devices as a weaning tool to quit conventional cigarettes, several countries, including Mauritius, Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, have prohibited devices.
In India, 13 states have already banned e-cigarettes and Odisha and Haryana are planning to do the same.
In March of this year, the Central Drug Standard Control Organization wrote to all drug controllers in states and union territories not to allow the manufacture, sale, import, and advertising of distribution systems. Electronic Nicotine (ENDS), including electronic cigarettes and flavored hookahs, in their jurisdictions.
Commenting on the investigation, MC Misra, former director of the Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, said there was a need to ban e-cigarettes immediately.
“Some smokers and doctors call it a withdrawal drug, but this is far from true because e-cigarettes contain addictive nicotine. In a study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the United States, which involved 800 smokers, only 9% said they quit after a year while the rest were addicted, he told PTI.
Piyush Goel, senior pulmonologist at Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurugram, said there was a need to stop the over-the-counter sale of e-cigarettes.
“There are many brands of electronic cigarettes that contain carcinogenic solvents. So they cannot be prescribed to patients indiscriminately. There must be some type of government control or quality control on electronic cigarettes,” Goel told PTI.
Shankar Narang, COO, Paras Healthcare noted that there is great concern that there is an increase in the availability of e-cigarettes, especially when they are not regulated.
“The surge of e-cigarette brands is a dangerous trend in such a scenario. The easy availability of e-cigarettes means that many gullible young people may fall prey to these products marketed by manufacturers as safe alternatives to tobacco. they’re not, ”Narang said.