Ban on E-Cigarettes has led to a hue and cry. There are endless debates on E-cigarettes vs Tobacco cigarettes. Have we lost sight of the real issue? Or do we really believe that the issue is non-existent?
Recently, the union cabinet made manufacture, sale, import, distribution and advertisement of E-cigarettes a cognizable offence. This ordinance aims at banning the use of E-cigarettes also known as vaping, owing to the health risks posed by it.
This move has been met with mixed opinions from different people. Numerous articles with differing viewpoints were shared on the internet. However, there were some points which caught my attention and made me question the whole trend.
1. Smoking vs. Vaping:
Honestly speaking, there is actually no debate about the ban. Most people seem to agree that the ban itself is a good idea. The actual debate that’s is whether vaping is less harmful than smoking? Tobacco consists of thousands of chemicals (including nicotine), most of which are toxic for our body. In the case of E-cigarettes, hot nicotine is extracted from tobacco along with flavours and other chemicals to create vapour for the user to inhale. But, there are still many unknowns as far as the chemicals used in a vape pen, making it harmful as well.
So the question here is should the usage of e-cigarettes be justified just because it seems to be less harmful than smoking?
2. The Debate:
‘Then why to ban vaping and not smoking?’
The above question intrigued me too. So many deaths are reported yearly because of tobacco and lung cancer, yet no one seems to ban it. Why the axe on vaping only?
Though personally speaking, I and most people feel smoking should be banned by the same logic as well. Unfortunately, there seem to be several other reasons attached:
Regulatory governance – There is no listed criterion related to licensing, certifications or authorizations from the government or any appointed authority, hence making it kind of an unregulated industry. We have more than 400 brands of E-cigarettes in India currently, none of which are manufactured in the country.
Faulty marketing – There is no research or proof, which suggests that vaping, helps one to quit smoking or is a better alternative to smoking. On the contrary, users are equally addicted to vape smoke. Multiple deaths in the USA have been reported due to vaping as well, which led the government to doubt the claims of E-Cigarette makers. Most people know of the harmful effects of smoking, which is not necessarily the case with vaping.
The Business aspect – The curbs and limitations applicable to tobacco cigarette makers are not applicable to E-Cigarette manufacturers. For example, warning that tobacco is injurious to health, restrictions on advertisement, marketing etc. Cigarette companies have to follow the mandates issued by governments, which as of now are not mandated for E-Cigarettes. This gives them a competitive advantage over tobacco cigarettes. This had the potential to cause a customer shift from smoking to vaping.
The Money – Owing to the addictive nature of nicotine, tobacco has almost become a recession-proof industry. Ever-increasing growth in the sale of cigarettes makes it a profitable business and hence an important source of revenue for the government as well. So they tax it heavily, regulate it strictly, keep putting curbs, and keep increasing the prices, but they never ban it. It’s basically freeing yourself from the guilt of being involved in something wrong just by creating more awareness that it is wrong. The onus is passed on to the free-will of the end customer. It’s interesting to note, since the announcement of the ban, the share prices of many tobacco companies like ITC and Godfrey Phillips etc. have increased.
3. The Real Issue:
Truthfully, the most painful part was to know that hundreds of E-cigarettes were confiscated from schools. Vaping has become a trend, with many youngsters who genuinely think of it as a harmless experiment. Unfortunately, it never became ‘just a one-time thing’.
There is a certain awareness about smoking, which makes a person question or think twice before trying. But, in the case of vaping; the apple pie, watermelon and various flavours make it all so attractive; not knowing that they were inhaling nicotine as well.
Some people feel that banning E-cigarettes will make the youngsters go back to trying tobacco at an early age. As per them, this move is counterproductive. I disagree with this notion.
It’s like saying, when your kid grows up to be a teen, you will advice him to try vape instead of smoking, just because the former is perceived to be less harmful.
As a parent you would want your kids to stay away from both!
Unfortunately, most of us look at issues horizontally, we just tend to scratch the surface. There can be endless debates on why this treatment to vaping or why not for smoking. In the end all of this just seems like a justification for our own vested interests.
Though the answer is clear as a crystal for everyone, matter of the fact is that some people will, still smoke. So instead of debating on smoking vs vaping, there is a need to go deeper and look at this issue vertically. We should seek answers for some pertinent questions:
- Why do youngsters get attracted to smoking/vaping?
- If these are not good for the society, environment or health then why do we have to live with it?
- Should vested interests be given more weightage than the larger good?
Maybe, if we raise the right questions, we might find some solutions. But that’s a topic for some other day…
– Darpan Jha
This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the writer, and not necessarily to any organization, committee or other group or individual.