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Regulate, not ban, sale and use of e-cigarettes, other ENDS devices: Voluntary association

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: July 24, 2019  | 21:43 IST

(Eds: Adds details) New Delhi, Jul 24 (PTI) Amid debates over consumption of e-cigarettes, a voluntary association of trade representatives of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) in the country appealed to the Centre and the Delhi government on Wednesday to not "not impose a ban", but regulate its sale. The association said it has written a fresh letter to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain, seeking an audience to share the industry's perspective based on "research done on ENDS in the western countries". ENDS are devices that heat a solution to create an aerosol, which also frequently contains flavours usually dissolved into propylene glycol and glycerin. There are various types of ENDS devices like e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn devices, vape, e-sheesha and e-nicotine flavoured hookah, among others. The appeal comes days after the Delhi High Court directed the Kejriwal government to urgently look into the matter of regulating the sale and consumption of e-cigarettes and termed it an "e-burning issue" as damage was being caused to children, who have started consuming these products. Besides, the apex research body Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had recently recommended a "complete" ban on ENDS, including e-cigarettes, saying their use can initiate nicotine addiction among non-smokers. Praveen Rikhy, convener of the Trade Representatives of ENDS in India (TRENDS), interacting with reporters here, claimed that instead of banning it, both the central and state governments should consider regulating its sale and consumption. "Studies done by a few research institutions in the west have shown that consumption of e-cigarettes, which contain far less harmful products, can help a smoker slowly give up smoking instead of relapsing to smoking cigarettes," she claimed. Asked if there was any study done in the country to back her claim, she said, "No, but we would urge the government to have a scientific research done on its effects." "We will then accept whatever the government says, but myths related to ENDS should be busted," Rikhy said. E-cigarettes, the most common among ENDS, produces an aerosolised mixture of the flavoured liquids and nicotine, which is inhaled by the user. Rikhy said TRENDS has made various representations to both the Centre and the city government in the past, and the fresh letter to them is a continuation in that effort to put forth the industry's viewpoint on the issue. "As a responsible industry, we would like to provide constructive suggestions for regulation of ENDS in the country, which will prevent access of products to vulnerable groups such as children under 18 years and pregnant women, while allowing controlled access to adult smokers looking for a less harmful substitute to conventional cigarettes," reads the letter sent to Vardhan. Rikhy, in the letter, also said the association believes that a "regulatory framework" will "encourage innovation" in the field, along with generating employment, and revenue for the government. As the debate over sale and use of ENDS continues, TRENDS has suggested the Centre and the Delhi government to take measures that could ensure that the use of ENDS is neither incentivised nor glamourised by anyone, if not banned. "Measures could include levying taxes and putting statutory warnings on ENDS products that are risk appropriate; having specific regulations with respect to nicotine strength to be permitted (there are many countries that have such regulations) which needs to be clearly marked on the product," the letter said. Other measures could be specifying maximum size of tanks of devices and liquid bottles; certified distribution channel for importers for the brands that are approved for sale in India (based on meeting minimum safety standards); allowing sale of ENDS products through licensed stores and online shops - those which comply with age limit regulations and other provisions of the law, Rikhy said. "No stores should be located near schools or educational institutions," she said. On July 11, the high court, which was hearing a plea seeking to regulate the sale and consumption of e-cigarettes, was informed by the petitioner's counsel that nowadays, schoolchildren have started using e-cigarettes that contain nicotine. A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar asked the Delhi government what it had been doing in the last one year since it informed the court that it was initiating steps to ban e-cigarettes, and whether the authorities were looking into the matter or not. "Are you doing something? Look at the damage it is causing to our children. Is anyone looking at this matter... See the urgency. Look at the content of nicotine in them... It is an e-burning issue," the bench said. In a white paper released on World No Tobacco Day on March 31, the ICMR said e-cigarettes adversely affect the cardiovascular system, impairs respiratory immune cell function and airways in a way similar to cigarette smoking and is responsible for severe respiratory diseases. The sale of e-cigarettes is completely banned in 25 countries, including Brazil, Norway and Singapore, while market authorisation is required in 17 other countries. In the US, ENDS marketed for therapeutic purposes are currently regulated by the US-FDA and the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, the white paper stated. According to TRENDS, an ENDS device could "range from Rs 1,500 to Rs 7,000". TRENDS's Rikhy said ENDS is not manufactured in India and it is being imported for sale in markets, where they are not banned, adding that many people also buy cheaper versions through grey markets. PTI KND KJ KJ

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