Health Ministry urges state governments to abstain from any collaboration with Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

New Delhi: Continuing its action against E-Cigarette in India, the Union Health Ministry has urged all the state governments to abstain from getting into any collaboration with the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW), saying that it has links to tobacco giant Philip Morris International Inc, a global cigarette maker, said a media report.

Established in 2017, the FSFW focuses on eliminating usage of cigarettes and works toward smoking cessation using new technologies and alternative products.

It says it works independently, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has said there are “clear conflicts” due to the USD 80 million in annual funding the foundation receives from Philip Morris, the Reuters reported on Monday.

In a letter written to all the state governments, the Union health ministry has asked all state governments in the country not to partner with FSFW.

“Any collaboration with the Foundation for a Smoke Free World should be avoided in the larger interest of Public Health,” senior health ministry official, Sanjeeva Kumar, wrote in the letter.

The letter to the state government comes following reports that PMI through FSFW is trying to influence the youth group and finally making way for its E- Cigarette devices to penetrate into the Indian market.

E-cigarettes involve a mechanism to deliver nicotine in an attractive format. They are marketed as a harm-reduction product which experts believe is contrary to the truth.

The devices do not fall within the scope of existing national legislation on tobacco production, distribution and use, yet pose significant health risks that are similar to those of conventional cigarettes.

While the union health ministry is repeatedly writing to the commerce ministry over banning the entry of e-cigarette brands into India, health experts in the country have called for a blanket ban on the devices.

Studies have found that the percentage of students who initiate the use of e-cigarettes and hookah smoking before 10 years of age has increased from 26 per cent to 45 per cent in the last 15 years.

In recent years, the Indian government has intensified its tobacco-control efforts, raising cigarette taxes and ordering companies to print bigger health warnings on cigarette packs.

India has 106 million adult smokers, second only to China, and more than 900,000 people die each year in India due to tobacco-related illnesses.

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