Tamil Nadu is a region at the bottom of India, and is certainly lagging behind more enlightened regions of the world when it comes to tobacco harm reduction. The government has banned the use, sale, manufacture, import and distribution of all vape products.
This is the action of the administrators who brought you the tagline: “Smoking will cost you!” They banned smoking in public places in 2008, and under that law the police arrested 18,138 people in 2014-15. But, in the following two years, numbers fell to such a low level data is no longer produced.
Director of Public Health K. Kolandaisamy explained there was a chronic level of staff shortages to keep up with enforcement and: “There are difficulties. For instance, during monsoon our priorities shift to fever control. We require as much manpower as we can draw from all quarters.”
So, even if it is possible to ignore the harm banning vaping does to public health, exactly how are they going to enforce it if they’ve abjectly failed to prevent open displays of smoking in public?
Such logistics don’t concern Dr. Sivaram Ganesamoni.
Ganesamoni lied about the dangers facing the public: “Smoking is a very dangerous habit and being exposed to that in the form of an e-cigarette is equally harmful. It can expose a non-smoker to potentially get addicted to the habit of smoking, and later move on to a conventional cigarette. For a smoker trying to quit smoking, it may be beneficial to help wean off the habit. While this was the purpose of the e-cigarettes, it has not happened in practice.”
Not all clincians in India are corruptly ignorant. The sound of reason comes from Dr. R. Balaji, who doesn’t agree with Ganesamoni: “E-cigarettes are less harmful. The risk is almost negligible as the carcinogenic elements are at very low levels. The main concern is that it possesses addictive substances, like nicotine, which can lead to substance abuse. The long term effects of these devices has to be looked into but if it is being used as a means to wean people off smoking, which is why these devices were created, then it is a positive measure.”
It doesn’t matter to the smokers of Tamil Nadu, they will simply keep smoking now that they are banned from switching to something 95% safer. Comments like those put out by Ganesamoni does matter to India as a whole.
Samrat Chowdhery, Director of the Association of Vapers India, explains: “India is planning to ban e-cigarettes even as regulators and public health agencies in developed countries like the US and UK see vaping as a much safer way of consuming nicotine.”
Chowdhery points to the wealth of evidence being published by Public Health England, and highlights that both the American Cancer Society and the British Medical Association agree vaping is much safer than smoking.
Will India listen?