No, e-cigarettes are neither 95% less harmful than tobacco nor do they cut exposure to carcinogens

©Health Analytics Asia

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended a complete ban on e-cigarettes and other electronic delivery systems as e-cigarettes are considered highly addictive.

By Dr Sobuhi Iqbal

In 2015, Public Health England (PHE) published a press release with the headline “E-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than tobacco.” This news was widely picked up in the media. A week later The Lancet criticised the PHE report in their editorial “E-cigarettes: Public Health England’s evidence-based confusion.” It conveyed that it has a conflict of interest as three of its authors have links with tobacco or e-cigarette industries. It also highlighted the lack of hard evidence and no formal criteria used in the study.

Yet, a number of articles and social media posts are re-emerging on the internet with false claims that e-cigarettes are safe and less harmful. A leading Indian newspaper published a report in March 2019 that “new e-cigarettes cut exposure to carcinogens reveals study.”

The study was done by Juul Labs, a leading e-cigarette manufacturer.

Given its widespread use by youth, there has been a concern worldwide and the JUUL has faced multiple investigations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Juul e-cigarette was accused of violating regulations by touting its vaping products as safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes. Last year, Israel banned JUUL, citing public health concerns. But Juul continues to enter international markets and announced plans for their products to be available in Philippines.

In India, Juul e-cigarettes are not legally available but they are commonly sold in the grey market. In last three days, there have been at least two articles published by Mintand Financial Expressclaiming that e-cigarette ban is not a cure to India’s tobacco problems and how India’s vape ban only deprives smokers of safer options.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended a complete ban on e-cigarettes and other electronic delivery systems (ENDS). The e-cigarettes are considered highly addictive and can harm the respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological systems the way cigarette smoking does.

“Use of ENDS or e-cigarettes has documented adverse effects on humans, which include DNA damage; carcinogenic, cellular, molecular and immunological toxicity; respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological disorders; and adverse impact on fetal development and pregnancy,” said Professor Balram Bhargava, Director-General of ICMR.