A letter written to the Union Health Minister, JP Nadda by two eminent researchers advocating e-cigarettes for de-addiction has opened up debate in the medical fraternity where many experts are against it.
Dr M Siddiqi, chairman of Cancer Foundation of India, Kolkata and RN Sharan, professor of Biochemistry at North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong, who have drafted the letter have demanded regulations on e-cigarettes or similar products instead of banning them outright without collecting any research data from India. They have also stated that the primary cause of cancer is not nicotine.
Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) also known as e-cigarettes are used as an alternative to normal cigarettes. Along with anti-tobacco movement, there is an increasing demand to ban e-cigarettes in India. Some states have already initiated the ban on e-cigarettes.
While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Siddiqi said, “Many states have banned e-cigarettes but it is done without a prior background check. We should seek to find the answer of ‘how many people succeeded in giving up smoking because of e-cigarettes’ before proceeding for a ban. A proper survey and research should be done before banning e-cigarettes.”
Other scholars and anti-tobacco activists have expressed disagreement with the argument put forward in the letter. “This is not a valid argument. Nicotine in its purest form can cause serious harm including cancer. There is no study to prove that over the counter use of nicotine without the aid of behavioural counselling helps anyone quit smoking. E-cigarettes are proven to be harmful with no benefit whatsoever. The government should not allow the sale of e-cigarettes in India,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Anti-Tobacco Activist and Professor and Surgeon, Tata Memorial Hospital.
Agreeing with Dr Chaturvedi’s views, Dr Prakash C. Gupta Director, Healis-Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health emphasised on the hazardous effects of nicotine. “Nicotine may or may not cause cancer but it is one of the most toxic, poisonous, and addictive substance known. The youth should not be smoking anything whether it is normal cigarettes or e-cigarettes,” he said.