Health and consumer rights groups on Wednesday urged the Punjab government to lift a ban on e-cigarettes in the state while pointing out that the use of tobacco was on the rise in Punjab.
Two organizations -- one seeking to reduce tobacco's harmful effects and the other representing consumer rights group -- sought lifting of the government's recent ban on e-cigarettes.
The Council for Harm-Reduced Alternatives (CHRA), which works towards reducing the tobacco health burden through safer alternatives, said the ban deprives smokers of a less harmful alternative and causes havoc with public health.
The Association of Vapers India (AVI), a consumer rights group that represents e-cigarette users across the country, sought lifting of the ban on similar lines.
E-cigarettes are an electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS), and their use is also known as vaping. Punjab has banned e-cigarettes following an advisory issued by the central government, experts linked to these organizations told media here on Wednesday.
Dr Rohan Sequeira, a cardio-metabolic physician at Mumbai's Jaslok Hospital, termed the Centre's advisory as "a knee-jerk reaction".
"When there is an alternative that is up to 95 per cent safer than tobacco cigarettes, there is no reason why the government should ban it," Sequeira said.
Noting that tobacco use in Punjab has risen from 11.7 per cent in 2010 to 13.4 per cent in 2017, the CHRA contended that the measures adopted by the state government to check the tobacco-use menace are not working and more effective ones are urgently needed.
"The e-cigarette ban came at a time when tobacco use and smoking in the state is on the rise. Instead of increasing the quit pathways, the Punjab government is limiting them further by banning safer alternatives which have shown great potential across the world in helping smokers quit," CHRA director Samrat Chowdhery said.
Demanding that Punjab withdraw the ban in the interest of public health, the AVI should instead regulate sale and use of e-cigarettes to keep them out of the hands of minors.
Chowdhery said that as per the findings of studies undertaken by the world's leading medical agencies, including American Cancer Society, Public Health England and the US FDA, use of e-cigarettes is 95 per cent less harmful compared to tobacco cigarettes.
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