Vapers, medical professionals protest nationwide against e-cigarette ban

Topics e-cigarettes

New Delhi: Members of Association of Vapers India stage a protest against e-cigarette ban in New Delhi, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary)

Hundreds of vapers, advocates of electronic cigarettes and medical professionals held a nationwide protest demanding that the government roll back the ban on electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).

The Association of Vapers India (AVI), an organisation that represents e-cigarette users, held protests in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai.

The protesters termed the ban "wilful genocide by the government", saying "it will push current vapers back to deadly smoking and deprive the country's 11 crore smokers of safer options".

The government on September 18 banned production, import and sale of e-cigarettes and similar products, citing health risk to people, especially youth, and an ordinance will be brought in to make it an offence, entailing jail term up to three years as well as fine.

Smoking kills nearly a million people in India every year.

The consumer body organised awareness drives in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata where government authorities and the police denied permissions to hold the protest, the AVI said in a statement.

They alleged that the government is neglecting public health as well as human rights to shield cigarette commerce as vaping has led to historic declines in smoking rates in countries where it has been allowed, the statement read.

Samrat Chowdhery, the AVI director and an advocate, said, "It is astonishing that the government ignored the stay orders of High Court of Delhi as well as Mumbai, and even imposed bans on research. We will continue to voice our protest against the ban and organise more such protests in other cities of the country."

"If the government turns deaf ears to our demands, we will be forced to challenge it legally," he added.

National coordinator for the protests Jagannath Sarangapani, who is based in Hyderabad, said they were denied permission to hold protests in three of the six cities which "reveals the autocratic approach of the government".

"How can a ban be announced without an adequate research, discussions with all stakeholders and without a debate by our elected representatives? This is a knee-jerk reaction to a new tobacco harm reduction route, which needs regulation not a ban. This is not how one tackles public health policy," he said.

Kanav Rishi Kumar from Delhi, who quit smoking through vaping, said, "It is inhumane of the government to bring an ordinance which puts the public's health at risk."

The legal fraternity said the ban on e-cigarettes is ultra vires to the Constitution.

"The government has abdicated its duty as a parent and has decided to treat its citizens like a trader simply trading their lives and future away for higher revenues and the greater benefits of a select few," Pingal Khan, an advocate from Bengaluru, said.

The consumer body plans to hold more protests against the ban on e-cigarettes as well as the bar on research. It will also spread awareness about harm reduction through e-cigarettes.

Protesters signed a petition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and wrote testimonials which will be sent to authorities.

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