India’s approach to vaping and harm reduction is so utterly nonsensical that there is only one word to describe it: corrupt. Clearly pressure has been brought to bear on Sharan and he is left lacking any credibility on the world stage.
Let’s turn the clock back to the end of May.
Then, Sharan believed: “Cancer is caused by carcinogenic elements generated from burning of organic leafy elements at a very high temperature of around 700-750 degree Celsius in conventional cigarettes. In e-cigarettes, there is huge reduction of such elements to the tune of 90-92 per cent.”
There’s little to misunderstand here, or with his ensuing statement that “the government should make a policy to give an option to the smokers to switch to e-cigarettes in its fight against cancer”.
He left people in no doubt that he believed vaping was the ideal option for smokers looking to quit due to the reduced harm and the cost savings accrued by governments through reduced health service requirements.
Emphasising the difference between vaping and smoking, he said (about tobacco): “In such cases, the oxygen is very less and it is a partial combustion. It generates random types of chemicals and it can go up to 5,000-6,000 different types. Many of these are Class-I carcinogens, which are proven cancer causing agents in humans.”
So the solution, for him, was simple: “The best is to get rid of smoking, but it is not so easy because people get addicted to it. We have been talking about nicotine therapies, but it is not serving the result and smoking has increased in the last 30 years. That is why e-cigarettes should be given a chance in India.”
No sooner had he lent his support to vape technology as an effective harm reduction tool, the professor received a letter from the Indian Tobacco Control Department.
As a consequence, and we can only guess at to the conversations that were held regarding his funding and employment, he now says: “It is a misplaced article as I never really said that one should start using e-cigarettes. I have been researching on all associated products and working for the good of the people, never would I want to push people to use it. E-cigarettes, in my opinion, are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, but there is no study that they do not cause any harm at all.”
It is a spineless, albeit understandable volte-face, and Sharan should be ashamed of his lack of conviction. He has prioritised personal reasons over the imminent deaths of millions. For shame, professor Sharan.