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CAIT asks govt not to ban e-cigarettes

Traders' body CAIT Wednesday asked the government not to ban e-cigarettes saying that a research report has shown these are less harmful than regular cigarettes.

The CAIT in a letter to Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the government should come out with appropriate regulations for sale and manufacture of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) or e-cigarettes instead of banning them.

The health ministry has reportedly proposed to classify alternative smoking devices, including e-cigarettes, as "drugs" under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act in a bid to ban their manufacture, sale, distribution and import.

According to official sources, the proposal has been approved by the Drug Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), the government's top advisory body on technical matters related to medicines in the country.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) in its letter contended that prohibition on ENDS products would increase illicit trade, encourage counterfeit and spurious products and result in loss of revenue to the government.

"It is our strong belief that allowing sale and access to less harmful alternatives as ENDS at such outlets, with appropriate regulatory measures and safeguards including age verification, will help in curbing cigarette smoking while ensuring sustained revenue for the traders and the government.

"We would also like to highlight that a prohibition on ENDS products will give rise to complexities that would hurt traders, government and consumers," CAIT said in its letter.

From the point of view of health hazard, the traders' body said that e-cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes.

Quoting assessment made by Public Health England, it said that ENDS are at least 95 per cent less harmful than combustible cigarettes and the Government of UK views ENDS as a potential tool to reduce their public health-care expenditure incurred on account of tobacco related illnesses.

The CAIT further said the discrimination meted out to e-cigarettes will endanger livelihood of all traders that operate around 40 lakh paan shops in the country.

It also said that advanced economies such as the US, the UK, and Canada among 98 other countries have already debated this and come up with robust frameworks that ensure stringent and transparent regulation that address the risks and benefits of the category adequately.

Even countries like the UAE, Seychelles and Thailand, which had banned ENDS earlier have or are in the process of framing regulations for the category, the CAIT added.