“We all know that tobacco addiction is very harmful for human health and coming out of this addiction is also very difficult,” the Prime Minister said. “People who consume tobacco in any form suffer problems like cancer, diabetes, blood pressure, among others.” On the addictive nature of tobacco, Modi highlighted the presence of nicotine – and stated that this was the impetus behind the Centre’s controversial decision to ban e-cigarettes, with a particular view towards the health of young people.
“E-cigarette has been banned so that this new form of intoxication does not destroy our demographically young country…does not trample the dreams of a family and waste the lives of our children,” he said. “This scourge and this obnoxious habit should not become rooted in our society.”
On Twitter, Modi asserted “there is much misinformation about e-cigarettes. They are extremely harmful for health. What is even worse is that unlike tobacco, where the hazards are known, in this case it is silent and equally lethal.” Sometimes, he said, the devices “sneak into the house out of sheer curiosity.”
Low awareness featured heavily in Modi’s Mann Ki Baat address. “There is no knowledge that once the teenagers or our youth get caught in its clutches, then, slowly, they become hooked and fall prey to this noxious addiction,” he said. “I urge all of you to quit the addiction to tobacco and do not harbour any misconceptions about e-cigarettes. Come, let us all build a healthy India.”
E-cigarettes were banned in India last month, following a missive from the Union Health Ministry to state governments in August last year urging them to ban the devices. While the prohibition has been praised by observers at home and abroad, including the World Health Organization and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg, it has also weathered much criticism from the e-cigarette industry and some health experts.
“E-cigarettes were promoted as a way to get people out of their smoking habits but reports have shown that many people are not using it as weaning mechanism but are addicted to it,” Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at the time the ban was announced. With public support from the Prime Minister, it is apparent that the e-cigarette ban is here to stay. Yet whether it is the right move for public health – and a boon or bane in the fight against tobacco – will remain an issue of contention.