E-Cigarette Ban: A road to Cancer paved with good intentions?

You are walking down the city streets on a lively night, you see some smoke up ahead on the footpath, rising up to the street lamp above. Below it is a small group of men in hoodies and fancy caps taking drags from some device and exhaling what appears to be smoke. You, being a non-smoker, dread that you will be subjected to second hand smoke and it’s odor as you pass them by. But when you do, it smells like bubblegum and coffee! The smoke was a vapor which quickly disappears into the atmosphere and you don’t feel even a tinge of discomfort. Out of curiosity you ask them about the device and they tell you it’s a Vape pen and they are recovering smokers who are inhaling a nicotine free e-liquid brand for recreation and to satisfy their oral fixation. “Good for them!” – You think to yourself and carry on.

The experience described above is something which will not be experienced in our nation anymore. Your dread of passive smoke will be valid, and you will continue to snarl or hold your breath around smokers, who are now many since they are deprived of a safer, less noxious alternative.

This, is a result of the E-cigarette ban, which as I will explain why in my opinion is a misguided and unrealistic decision by our lawmakers, albeit made in good faith.

Let us Start with the Research findings on E-cigarettes

  • The American Cancer Society states that E-cigarettes/Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) are significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco.[1]
  • Research done on consumers who Vape is unreliable since a large majority of people who Vape also smoke conventional cigarettes.[2]
  • Nicotine is harmful for brain development in teens, adolescents and young adults.[3]
  • Nicotine is an addictive, cancer facilitating agent.
  • Indian Council of Medical Research states that Vapes can ‘potentially cause nicotine addiction’.[4]
  • The American Cancer Society also found that Vapes can be used to quit smoking, but only when completely substituted for other tobacco products.
  • E-cigarettes proven to aggravate symptoms of people with prior respiratory illnesses such as Asthma. [5]

These findings paint an ambiguous picture of E-Cigarettes, because there simply is not enough reliable research into the subject. Yet, there is a stark contrast between cigarettes and vapes.

How Vapes compared to Cigarettes:

  • Cigarettes produce between 400 to 7000 harmful chemicals and compounds, at least 70 of which are directly cancer causing agents.[6]
  • E-cigarette aerosol is also harmful, but contains significantly less toxins than cigarettes, varying by brand.
  • Nicotine itself being harmful and addictive, is absent in many brands which produce Zero-nicotine e-liquids, which do not contribute to addiction and can help nicotine addicts quit the drug, while not completely harmless, they are a significantly safer alternative to any nicotine products.[7]
  • E-Cigarettes are free from Carbon Monoxide which binds to blood cells and reduces oxygen absorption, ash, tar and contain greatly reduced amounts of suspended particulate matter.

All facts point toward a confirmation that Vapes are indeed less harmful than conventional cigarettes, but it is important that we do not overlook other dimensions that will affect from this technology and the eventual banning of it in India.

Factors influenced by E-Cigarrettes and conventional cigarettes:

  • Cigarette filters are made of poly fibers and retain the toxins of the burnt tobacco after use, which causes vast micro-plastic and toxins to spread and pollute sea, rivers, air, soil, agricultural products, salt and marine life. [8]
  • E-cigarettes, their components and batteries become electronic waste after their life cycle, producing waste which is expensive to recycle and harder to dispose without damaging the environment. [9]
  • Economically speaking – E-Cigarettes were primarily imported into India, which, in large quantities can contribute to moving the nation’s balance of trade toward a deficit. Due to the ban, this effect will be nullified.
  • Cigarette manufacturers will benefit from reduced competition and increased sales from the Vape Ban.
  • Tobacco Farmers who were selling tobacco to Vape companies to extract pure nicotine, will sell to cigarette, bidi and gutka manufacturers to survive, increasing their production.

Now that we understand the ripple effects of this ban, let us get our teeth into the core of the arguments behind the ban and how its implementation serves to subsequently undermine public health and deprive individuals preferred choices in the products they consume.

Points against the ban

  • Banning prevents research into E-cigarettes to objectively study and determine the long term effects of their consumption. The only countries which can seriously invest in researching them will be the ones which haven’t banned it, which is likely to further delay reliable research findings since mainly developed nations have banned it, leaving the burden of research to under-funded nations.
  • E-cigarette vapor has been proven to be significantly less harmful than tobacco smoke, it is short-sighed and unreasonable to ban the lesser of two evils, while completely ignoring and in effect safeguarding smoking/chewing tobacco manufacture, which is drastically more harmful and will increase reliance on unrefined tobacco products.
  • The harmful effects like ‘DNA damage’, ‘Formation of cancer, molecular and immunological toxicity and adverse impact on fetal development’ which have been linked with Vaping are all effects of nicotine[10], which may or may not be present in Vapes varying by brand.[11] This is correlation not causation, further discrediting current research on the subject. If this logic is to be pursued, other ‘safe’ alternative nicotine delivery mechanisms such as: nicotine gums and patches should also be banned!
  • As a tactic to discourage new nicotine addicts, it fails since they will simply move back to other, more easily available and harmful forms of nicotine delivery.
  • Banning will increase counterfeiting, not only increasing the probability of more unstable, adulterated and potentially more harmful product, but will become an additional burden on the law enforcing machinery.
  • The Government cites ‘Ease of Access’ to vapes as a reason to ban[12], but ignores that cigarettes/gutka can be found easily on general stores, tea stalls, cigarette stalls which are widespread and always just a short walk away.
  • The white paper published by an ‘expert committee’ of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which was the documented basis and recommendation on which the decision of banning was made, contains no local survey and tests in India, all the statistics and supporting data cited in the paper has been borrowed from foreign subjects, studies and surveys primarily on citizens of North America and Europe, rendering its validity even more questionable since users in these countries are also known to use various additives such as marijuana or other illicit substances in their e-liquids.

All the while cigarettes, bidi and gutka remain untouched, at large and now with one less competitor. E-cigarettes were new, thus their effects were unknown, and will remain unknown to us for now. Until and unless more proactive and smarter attempts to cut down tobacco use do not be undertaken, I do not see a smoke free India anytime soon. It falls down to the individual now, to make healthier life choices for oneself and quit smoking using whatever will or healthy resources he/she can find.

 If you are a smoker and you are reading this, know that as of today there are still useful aids to quit smoking available and also for consuming nicotine in a much safer way if you choose to continue using nicotine despite knowing its dangers. Nicotine gums and Patches give the same sensations and effect as a cigarette, yet do not corrode your airways or lungs. Kindly be wise, your family and well-wishers will be happy to see you live longer, even if you do not care.


[1] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/tobacco-and-cancer/e-cigarettes.html#written_by

[2] https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/28/1/13

[3] https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/knowtherisks.html

[4] http://www.ijmr.org.in/article.asp?issn=0971-5916;year=2019;volume=149;issue=5;spage=574;epage=583;aulast=Indian

[5] https://www.healthline.com/health/asthma/vaping-and-asthma

[6] https://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/whats-in-a-cigarette.html

[7] https://vaping360.com/health/vaping-without-nicotine/

[8] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/08/cigarettes-story-of-plastic/

[9] https://www.who.int/ceh/risks/ewaste/en/

[10] https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-01-nicotine-e-cigarettes-cancers-mouse.html

[11] https://veppocig.com/vaping-without-nicotine/

[12] https://www.news18.com/news/india/govt-bans-e-cigarettes-citing-health-hazards-2313595.html

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