Health Ministry angry with Air India's e-cigarette ads

e-cigaretteThe union health ministry has told the civil aviation ministry and Air India that the display of electronic cigarettes in some of its publications violates the law against tobacco advertising. In separate letters to the ministry of civil aviation and Air India sent this week, the health ministry said Air India through discount booklets 'Air Bazaar', distributed during flights, is selling 'Electronic Cigarette' with a picture of a model smoking.

Most e-cigarettes consist of battery-powered heating elements and replaceable cartridges that contain nicotine or other chemicals and an atomizer. The atomizer when heated vapourises contents of the cartridge, delivering a nicotine shot that a smoker craves, and without subjecting him to other harmful side-effects of traditional cigarettes such as tar.

The letter highlighted that display of e-cigarettes is in contravention of section 5 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act of 2003 (COTPA) and further tends to put the government in an embarrassing position as the health ministry is the implementing body for the provisions under the law. Further, the health ministry has asked to take all necessary steps to ensure there is no sale or offer for sale of any product in the airlines, in a manner that promotes the use or consumption of cigarettes or any other tobacco products in violation of the provisions of COTPA. (Read: The new smart e-cigarettes can help you keep track of your smokes)

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'Manufacturers are taking advantage of the absence of a clear-cut policy on e-cigarettes. COTPA does not talk about non-tobacco products. This potentially opens the way for tobacco companies to advertise and distribute e-cigarettes alongside other tobacco products,' Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, executive director of Voluntary Health Association of India, said Saturday. In the absence of regulation, e-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular in India, she added.

Over 55 per cent Indians are less than 25 years of age and extremely susceptible to such products. Realising the potential problem, the World Health Organisation (WHO) called for a declaration to ban e-cigarettes during its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control for South-East Asia Region meet in July 2013. In India, e-cigarettes are marketed 'health cigarette' without details of contents, manufacturing date or country of origin, and largely sold illegally. (Read: Need guidelines on e-cigarette: WHO)

Smoking causes more deaths than alcohol, cocaine, crystal meth and other recreational drugs put together. Cigarettes contain over a dozen carcinogens and 1 out of every 3 cancer-related deaths is caused due to tobacco products. Smokers even whilst accepting the hazardous effects of smoking simply don't have the will power or gumption to quit. There are various smoking cessation methods that help smokers quit including nicotine patches, gums and e-cigarettes where the underlying principle is to give addicts the nicotine "kick" without the harmful carcinogens found in tobacco. The most popular one is the electronic cigarette or the E-cig.

What's an e-cig?

An electronic cigarette is a device that mimics the entire smoking process by producing a mist which has the same sensation (sometimes the same flavour too) of smoking. The concept of an electronic cigarette has been around since the 60s but tobacco consumption wasn't really considered hazardous back then and it took until 2003 for the first smokeless e-cigarette to hit the market.

Electronic cigarettes manufacturers claim that they are like real cigarettes except that there are no hazardous health implications because there is no combustion, no tobacco and no smoking. Also since there is no passive smoking, second hand smoke and pollution due to butt litter or smoke. (Read: Electronic Cigarettes what are they?)

With inputs from IANS

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