THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 10 September 2019 (India’s vape ban only deprives smokers of safer options (The Hindu))

India’s vape ban only deprives smokers of safer options (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: electronic nicotine delivery systems
Mains level: Tobacco related problem and associated issues


  • The world has embraced electronic cigarettes, commonly known as vapes, and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) as harm-reduction alternatives to combustible tobacco used in cigarettes.
  • Globally, several tobacco control researchers have concluded that e-cigarettes are at least 95% less hazardous than combustible cigarettes.
  • Studies by Public Health England show that the risk of passive smoking associated with them is also extremely low, as they do not produce tobacco fumes. But India, it would seem, is just not convinced.


  • That is surprising given that the country bears 12% of the global burden of tobacco users, has 40% of its adults exposed to passive smoking, and also has the dubious distinction of showing the lowest quit rate among all countries surveyed in the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2.
  • Despite the figures, our government appears keen to deny the Indian populace access to a tobacco harm-reduction alternative by taking a hard stand against the use of electronic cigarettes.
  • It is no wonder that the government’s decision to ban ENDS across the country has sparked a debate.
  • However, since there is empirical evidence to suggest that countries, which have regulated ENDS, have witnessed a decline in smoking rates, India needs to take note and reconsider its stance on the matter.
    Regulations for ENDS
  • Globally, the most successful regulations for ENDS are those with strong evidentiary underpinning.
  • The UK and France, for example, have witnessed a decline in their smoking rates, with the UK marking the lowest at 14.9% in 2017, in comparison to 19.8% in 2011, and a record 1.6 million people in France having moved away from combustible cigarettes over the past two years.
  • Sweden has achieved the lowest rates of smoking-caused illnesses in Europe, thanks in part to a low-risk form of smokeless tobacco called snus.
  • In Asia, Japan has reduced cigarette sales by a third in just three years through product substitution. This underscores the viability of ENDS as a long-term alternative to smoking.

Why ban when you can regulate?

  • Country-wise e-cigarette policies differ and the outcomes of their experience so far could inform a regulatory system in India.
  • New Zealand is promoting ENDS by launching a website called Vaping Facts to clarify myths and make the country smoking-free by 2025, Canada, the UAE and Seychelles have reversed their bans to regulate the product and allow access to adult smokers.
  • These countries now have regulatory mechanisms to monitor the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of ENDS products to enable people to switch and deter unintended consequences.
  • Canada has created a separate provision for vaping products under its existing tobacco control regulations.
  • Its objective is to ensure that the category of modern products is regulated but these are more accessible than old tobacco products, which are significantly more harmful.

What India needs to?

  • With a smoking population estimated at over 100 million, India is not only a lucrative market for e-cigarette players, but also has more to gain from a public health standpoint if ENDS are permitted.
  • A large chunk of India’s healthcare expenditure goes into the treatment and management of preventable diseases, including tobacco-related illnesses, and by changing its mindset and accepting the opportunity that electronic cigarettes and similar tools present, India will not only gain economically but also find better solutions to combat the voluntary inhalation of harmful substances.
  • India needs to think of vaping as part of a solution and learn from the empirical evidence being provided by various countries.
  • In the interest of people’s health, the government must not ignore scientific innovations, which allow us to combat a crisis of addiction that has not been satisfactorily responsive to various measures adopted over the decades.
  • India is currently the second-largest tobacco consumer in the world, a position that should encourage us to intervene in ways that are likely to yield results.


  • A ban on a widely accepted alternative to smoking regular cigarettes not only prevents consumers from making a less harmful choice, it may also result in an illicit trade turning rampant.
  • We need to check the entry of dangerous counterfeits, and deny vulnerable groups access to these products via the black market.
  • It is important for the government to examine the data from other countries and formulate a holistic strategy to reduce India’s tobacco disease burden.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the development of railways in British India, consider the following statements:
1. In order to create confidence among English capitalists, the Government of India offered a guaranteed interest of
atleast 5% on their investment.
2. The railways followed a system of preferential freight charges.
3. The increased requirement of coal as a fuel in railways led to the development of coal mining in India.

Which of the statements given above are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: A
Mains Questions:

Q.1) How India can regulate tobacco market? Why ban when you can regulate?