India is currently fighting an uphill battle for public health. With over a billion citizens, the nation has high rates of HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis. Children often die of malnutrition and starvation in the dirty streets, but the health ministry seems to turn a blind eye for the most part. Instead, they are focusing their energy on other issues, primarily electronic cigarettes. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan is working hard to institute a total ban on ecigs, ignoring numerous research reports that show they are effective for smoking cessation and far less harmful than tobacco.
Instead, Vardhan believes that ecigs are just as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes and he insists that vaping is a gateway that leads children into using tobacco products. With no real research to back his claims, he continues to spread disinformation and wage war on ecigs, just in time to squash the first real chance that the country has to do something about the raging tobacco problem.
As the health ministry tries to keep ecigs out of the country, India’s largest tobacco company is just beginning to produce their own electronic cigarette line. ITC cigarettes currently account for three out of four cigarettes sold in the nation, but after prices increases started to cause sales to drop, they decided to try offering a line of ecigs. The new Eon electronic cigarette was designed in India, but ITC has them manufactured in China. The original plan was the introduce the new ecig product slowly and then phase it in across India over the next few months. However, the health ministry is trying to intervene before they ever really get the product out among the general population.
In recent months, India has boosted their regulations for ITC and other tobacco companies, primarily by requiring 85 percent of packaging to feature graphic warning labels. However, there have been no attempts to ban the sale of cigarettes. Apparently they were saving the ban for ecigs, which seems foolish in light of the larger health issues. Furthermore, ecigs could be the key to helping many smokers in India kick the habit. Yet Vardhan refuses to believe that vaping could be beneficial and simply wants to ban it from the jump.
If India’s health ministry does successfully prohibit electronic cigarettes, it could spell disaster for the country’s public health. IT’s hard to understand or even justify their actions in light of the most recent research. Why do you think India really wants to get rid of ecigs? Is it really about health fears or is it more about tax money from big tobacco?