Consumers demand Karnataka government lift ban on e-cigarettes

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Bengaluru, 10th May 2019:

The e-cigarette ban imposed by the Karnataka state government is anti-people and imperils the lives of over 1.8 crore smokers in the state, said Association of Vapers India (AVI), a consumer rights group that represents e-cigarette users across the country. E-cigarettes are electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and their use is also known as vaping.

The organisation filed public interest litigation (PIL) in the Karnataka High Court last year against the ban on e-cigarettes. AVI said scientific evidence from credible organisations such as the US FDA, Public Health England and the American Cancer Society supporting that ENDS are substantially safer than smoking was presented before the court. The petition stated smokers in the state have a legitimate right to reduce harm by transitioning to less harmful alternatives.

Karnataka is a tobacco industry hub and according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), 22.8% of adults in the state use tobacco in some form and it stands at 11th in the country in tobacco use prevalence.

AVI director Samrat Chowdhery said, “The ban on e-cigarettes is arbitrary and unjustified. ENDS are a smoking replacement option without the harmful chemicals found in combustible cigarettes, which significantly reduces cancer risk. Banning their use while allowing cigarettes to be sold violates basic principles of public health; protects the tobacco industry and criminalises citizens who are trying to avoid tobacco-related death and disease.”

Global studies suggest e-cigarettes are up to 95% less harmful than smoking, with negligible second-hand risk. Over 65 nations including the US, EU countries, Canada, UAE and New Zealand have regulated their use, with the UK raising awareness about them through its public health network.

Dr. Aparajeet Kar, consultant pulmonologist, Narayana Health, Bengaluru, said, “E-cigarettes produce aerosol by using a battery to heat a solution of nicotine and flavouring agents. Since they don’t burn tobacco, there is no tar or carbon monoxide produced.”

He added, “Thousands of highly toxic chemicals cause the harm from smoking conventional cigarettes. Benzo(a)pyrene, a known lung cancer carcinogen, is absent in e-cigarettes. One of the major benefits of vaping is the ability to control the amount of nicotine that a person is ingesting. So far, there is no evidence that vaping causes harm to other people which is in contrast to passive smoking that kills 800,000 people every year.”

Advocate Pingal Khan from Ashlar Law which is representing AVI in court, said, “The Government of Karnataka will always have the dubious distinction of being the first state that started the trend of issuing unilateral, unreasoned and unresearched arbitrary bans on

e-cigarettes, claiming it to be as harmful as traditional nicotine delivery systems. Today, if a smoker tries to quit smoking by resorting to the most effective cessation device available, then one is banned from doing so. The government with impunity and based on outdated studies and no real consultation with civil society continues to deprive its citizens from the freedom to replace smoking with considerably less harmful e-cigarettes ,denying them the dignity of a better life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, while pushing a large section of the population towards smoking related health complications – an unmitigated public health disaster.”

He added, “Our fight is to ensure a fairer and regulated provision on e-cigarettes as a harm reduction device to ensure better lives for active smokers while weaning them away from the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes. Our fight is to return the fundamental right of life with human dignity to the millions of Indian smokers and we expect the Hon’ble High Court to do complete justice in this matter.”

Consumers are also speaking up on the issue. Karthik Krishnan, who quit a 26-year smoking habit through vaping, said, “The ban is illogical as e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking and the decision was taken without any dialogue. Rather than imposing a ban, the government should look towards regulating ENDS.”

Another consumer, Pradeep Herle, said, “I was smoking 20 cigarettes a day. After switching to vaping, I feel much better – no morning cough and phlegm, no falling sick often with cold and fever, my clothes and car don’t smell of smoke, I can play back-to-back games of badminton which I couldn’t before and food tastes better. I am not inhaling thousands of harmful chemicals with tar and burning paper. I feel much healthier than before.”

AVI members said Karnataka has a smoking problem and while the goal of tobacco elimination is noble, it will take decades to achieve, during which time a lot more people will die. The state will benefit tremendously by switching current smokers to safer alternatives and by adopting tobacco harm reduction (THR) as a tobacco control strategy.

Chowdhery said consumers have a right to better health and are willing to participate with the government to frame THR policies, and will continue to fight for this right at the highest levels of judiciary if the state remains bent on denying people access to harm reduction.

About Association of vapers India (AVI): Association of Vapers India is a non-profit advocacy group that champions the use of vapor products and electronic cigarettes to help smokers quit. It provides information to smokers regarding quitting smoking and gives them resources and tools to begin and complete their quit journey. AVI currently have access to 100,000 vapers, and hopes to bring people from different walks of life together in the fight against tobacco. AVI along with the help of experts and researchers has also initiated dialogue with the Indian government to find a balanced way to regulate the e-cigarette market and products to ensure it is available to smokers looking to quit.

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