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WHO Welcomes Indian E-Cigarette Ban

by AFP
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Eva Hambach—AFP

Global health body says North Korea, Singapore, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and East Timor have also banned vaping

The World Health Organization congratulated India on Thursday for its ban on electronic cigarettes, the latest evidence of a global backlash against a technology touted as safer than regular smoking.

In a tweet, the U.N. body’s Southeast Asia office said that India was the sixth country in the region to ban e-cigarettes after North Korea, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and East Timor. Singapore has also outlawed e-cigarettes.

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, a prominent opponent of smoking, also congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “recognizing this epidemic and putting the health of your citizens first.”

Citing health concerns, the Indian government announced on Wednesday a ban on the production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution and storage of e-cigarettes. It came a day after New York became the second U.S. state to outlaw flavored e-cigarettes, and a week after President Donald Trump said his administration was considering a ban.

E-cigarettes heat up a liquid, flavored with anything from bourbon to bubble gum and usually containing nicotine, into vapor—hence “vaping”—which is inhaled. The technology has been pushed by producers, and also by some governments including in Europe as a safer alternative to tobacco—and as a way to kick the habit.

The vapor is missing the estimated 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke but does contain a number of substances that could potentially be harmful.

Critics say that apart from being potentially harmful in themselves, savvy marketing and the flavors available have turned millions of children into vapers—and into potential future smokers.

The sale of tobacco remains legal in India, prompting accusations that Modi’s main aim is to protect India’s domestic industry, on which some 45 million people depend for their livelihood.

India is also the world’s third-largest producer of tobacco and exports around a billion dollars worth of the product annually, with the government holding stakes in several tobacco firms, including ITC. India is the world’s second-largest consumer of traditional tobacco products, although chewing—which still causes cancer—is much more common than smoking, killing nearly 900,000 people a year, according to the WHO.

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