No study was done
Sales of vapor products is illegal in the Indian state of Karnataka, but vapers who can’t buy e-cigs are at least enjoying a little moral satisfaction right now. The ban was announced on June 15 as a response to a supposed study conducted by the government in conjunction with a non-governmental organization.
“We have banned e-cigarettes today,” then-health minister UT Khader told the Times of India. “The decision has been taken on the recommendation of the committee on cancer prevention.” He went on to explain to the paper that a study had been conducted that showed large numbers of children becoming addicted.
A vaper took it upon himself to file a Right to Information request (similar to an American or British Freedom of Information request)) with the government, asking for information on the study quoted by Khader. According to a story by reporter Rakesh Prakashi this week in the Times, the response was negative. There had been no study done.
Members of the city’s vaping community (e-cigarette users) mostly young techies, have taken the Right to Information (RTI) route to debunk the government’s claim that the ban was based on scientific studies. The RTI reply they received from the Tobacco Control Division of the Union ministry of health and family welfare categorically says “no studyresearch analysis is available” on the harmful effects of e-cigarettes.
The RTI application was filed by IT professional Praveen Vijayan Pillai on the basis of the justification made by UT Khader, then health minister of Karnataka, while announcing the ban. Khader had said a decision on banning e-cigarettes was taken after a study was conducted by an NGO and experts.
But the RTI reply from the Union health ministry has exposed the state government, vapers allege. “Why did Karnataka target e-cigarettes while the traditional tobacco cigarettes remain untouched? Why didn’t it conduct any comprehensive and unbiased scientific study on the harmful effects of e-cigarettes before hastily announcing a ban? Was it actually concerned about citizens’ health or was it securing some groups’ business interests,” they asked.
Pillai, who used to smoke about 40 cigarettes a day before he switched to vaping three years ago, said: “I had reluctantly taken to vaping to get rid of tobacco cigarettes and now I am on the verge of quitting. What intrigued me is that the government imposed the ban without justifying it through a scientific study or data. That is not fair.”
In June, we wrote about the state of Punjab sentencing a shop owner to three years in jail for selling a single e-cigarette. Parvesh Kumar is free on bail now while his case is appealed. His story has been written about by pro-harm reduction luminaries like Clive Bates and Sally Satel. Unfortunately, nobody in power in Karnataka is speaking for vapers.
The vaping community in India is growing. Vapers there share the same excitement we all do, having found a way to quit smoking that works and is enjoyable and fun. But they may have an even rougher road ahead. It would be an inspiring thing to see vapers around the world support them and get involved in their struggle, at least on social media. Check out the Twitter hashtag #IndiaAlsoVapes and wish them luck.