Canadian Professor and Activist Questions Indian Government for Banning Harm Reduction Nicotine

New Delhi, September 27, 2018 Professor David Sweanor, a Canada based policy expert and lawyer who has exhaustively worked on policy change for nearly three decades has criticized the Indian Government for failing to uphold the rights of the vaping community and enforcing dictatorial policy to ban the harm reduction product— the e-cigarette. Insisting that e-cigarettes offer a better option for cessation and are a less hazardous product compared to combustible cigarettes, Prof Sweanor said less harm products offer consumers informed choice and empowers them to lead a healthier life.

Speaking at an event in New Delhi, David Sweanor, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa & Honorary (Consultant) Assistant Professor, University of Nottingham, said, “Banning the less hazardous product is just not good policy decision. We know in India hundreds of thousands of people die every year from the smoke emitted from open fire used for cooking. It’s not the cooking, it’s the smoke that is harmful. Similarly, in the case of cigarettes, it’s not the nicotine but the smoke. In public health, whenever we find a risk, we must try to reduce it and not resort to an absolutist position about preventing it from happening at all.”

Globally, progressive countries like the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Norway and Canada, among others, have legalized sale of nicotine e-cigarettes and e-liquids as consumer goods. nations view vaping (inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic device) as a much safer harm reduction alternative to smoking. In fact recently in Australia, wherein after a regulatory failure to curb cigarette consumption, doctors and scientists from Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA) are asking for reduced harm products like vaping devices to be made available as a cessation product. The question for us is why isn’t India moving towards this progressive path as well?

Sharing his views on the need for policy change to regulate E-cigarettes in India, Professor Sweano said, “We need to move to risk proportionate regulations. A wide range of products need to be made available to replace cigarettes. The goal should be to promote the least hazardous products like many governments did from moving from leaded to unleaded petrol. Cigarettes are the ones that should be the most expensive, hardest to get and have the biggest warning.”

He added, “India has probably the greatest potential in the world to move towards harm reduction and minimization of consumption of hazardous products. People need to know the difference in risks of the hazardous products. Once people are empowered and have this knowledge they can make better decisions about their own health. That’s the best public health so that they can be agents of their own health and make the decisions that they need to make to improve their health.”

The professor cited several studies that endorse e-cigarettes as a better alternative to smoking. The Royal College of Physicians' new report, 'Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction' has concluded that e-cigarettes are likely to be beneficial to public health in the long run vis-à-vis combustible cigarettes. Another study by Public Health UK has also suggested that e-cigarettes are likely to be at least 95 per cent less hazardous than cigarettes.

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