New Delhi (Health wire): Even as the union health ministry continues to harden its stand against the entry of e-cigarette companies to India considering its addiction and ill-health effects, a detailed survey has recently found that already 36 brands of the devices are illegally available in the Indian market for the last 2-3 years and further strengthening its market base.
Among the 36 e-cigarette brands
ITC produced EON has the highest presence with 17.3 per cent, followed by China produced SMOK with 15.6 per cent and Los Angles based brand MAYA with 11.6 per cent market share, the survey conducted by New Delhi-based Consumer Voice, a prominent consumer affairs NGO that advises the government on prominent people related issues, has revealed.
E-cigarettes are just a mechanism to deliver nicotine in an attractive format. They are marketed as a harm reduction product which is contrary to the truth. They do not fall within the scope of existing national legislation on tobacco production, distribution and use yet pose significant health risks that are frighteningly similar to those of conventional cigarettes.
While the union Health ministry is repeatedly writing to the Commerce ministry over banning the entries of e-cigarette brands to India including America-based JUUL, Indian health experts have called for a blanket ban over the device as it causes the same effect on health of its consumers.
Studies have found that the percentage of students who initiate e-cigarettes and hookah smoking before 10 years of age has increased from 26 per cent to 45 per cent in the last one and half decade.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), there were 14 lakh cancer patients in 2016. Of these, the highest number of cases was of lung and oral cancer, which is often caused by tobacco and smoking.
The study report revealed
In Delhi all together eight brands of e cigarettes were being sold both online and at pan shops. The brands included EON, VERGE, CE and SMOK.
In Mumbai, SMOK, VAPORESSO and VERGE had the highest presence among the e-cigarette brands. Similarly in Kolkata four brands are usually available which includes MAYA with 50 per cent of the market share followed by EON. In Bengaluru a cigarette brand named JOMO was available the most with three sub-brands titled JOMO LITE and JOMO TECH.
Lucknow also had the presence of brands such as VAPE, VAPORESSO among others, revealed the study.
Ashim Sanyal, the Chief Operating Officer and Secretary of Consumer Voice, said that the e-cigarettes are currently available either covertly through pan shops or online sites which are under no regulation.
“Price of e-cigarette
Shops ranges from Rs 200 to more than Rs 6,800 depending upon the brand, capacity, flavours and variants. During the survey we found that there was no MRP printed on the packet in case of almost all the brands. The highest actual retail price was found to be in the case of JUUL, Jewel and Aspire brands which ranges from Rs 6,000. While the government is officially trying to ban it from entering Indian, it is already available illegally,” Sanyal said.
He said that the reason ITC’s EON was found out to be most popular brand was due to its price which ranges from Rs 440 with minimum of Rs 200 to maximum of Rs 800 depending upon different variants.
It was also discovered during the survey that while most of the buyers were school and college students within the age group of 12-25, they considered it to be comparatively less harmful than the conventional cigarettes. However, none were able to explain the factors behind it. Currently, while the e-cigarette companies are trying to promote the devices as a cessation drug to quit the conventional cigarettes, several countries that includes Mauritius, Australia, Singapore, Korea (Democratic People’s Republic, Sri Lanka and Thailand among others have banned e cigarettes.
In India as of now 13 states have already banned it and Odisha and Haryana are on the verge of banning it.
In March this year, the Central Drug Standard Control Organisation wrote to all drug controllers in states and Union territories to not allow the manufacture, sale, import and advertisement of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), including e-cigarettes and flavoured hookahs, in their jurisdictions.
Commenting on the survey
M.C Misra, Ex- Director of New Delhi-situated All India Institute of Medical Sciences, said that there was a need to ban e –cigarette immediately as it was not a cessation drug as claimed by its manufacturers.
“Some people who smoke and doctors also call it a cessation drug but it is far from truth because e-cigarettes also contain nicotine which is addictive. In a study by National Institute on drug abuse, USA, which involved 800 smokers, only 9 per cent reported having quit after one year while the rest were addicted,” he said.
Piyush Goel, senior Pulmonologist at Columbia Asia hospital said there was a need to halt the over the counter sale of e –cigarettes.
“There are many brands of e-cigarettes that contain solvents that are carcinogenic. So, they cannot be blindly prescribed to patients. There has to be some type of government control or quality checks on e-cigarettes,” Goel said.
Similarly,Shankar Narang, COO, Paras Healthcare said it was a matter of extreme concern that there was a spurt in availability of e-cigarette especially when it was not regulated.
“The spurt of e-cigarette brands is a dangerous trend in such a scenario. Easy availability of e cigarettes implies that many gullible youngsters can fall prey to these products that are marketed by manufacturers as safe alternatives to tobacco, which they are not,” Narang told. ENDS