In a major boost to the phenomenon of vaping and to the relief of the growing number of vapers in the country, the Ministry of Health has decided to promote the adoption of e-cigarettes among smokers as a means to help them quit smoking. This is a huge departure from the ill-conceived and a scientifically unsubstantiated ban on nicotine e-juices that existed not so long ago. Clearly, the ministry has realized its faux pas and is making the much-needed amends to their Smokefree 2025 strategy.

So, what prompted the ministry to take such a 180-degree turn on its stance?

Well, a lot of factors. The ban itself faced severe criticism both domestically and internationally for being nearsighted and not based on solid data. It was imposed considering the public perception of nicotine products, rather than taking into account hard facts. Making things worse, the Ministry of Health has failed spectacularly in curbing the menace of smoking. The number of smokers in the country stands as high as 550,000. That’s nearly 12 percent of the population. The number of smoking-related deaths are in the neighbourhood of 4500 per year. One of the milestones laid out under the Smoke-free 2025 goal states that the goal is achievable only if the smoking rate in the country is brought down to 10 percent by 2018. That’s next year. And, the Ministry is under tremendous pressure to deliver.

Although the government has decided to promote vaping, it has clarified its stance quite explicitly that it is only for adult smokers who are looking to quit smoking. This has multiple implications. One is that children continue to be prohibited from smoking e-cigarettes, be it nicotine variants of non-nicotine variants. This, according to them, is to ensure that vaping does not become a gateway habit for smoking, although again there is no evidence of that happening. For this reason, e-cigarettes will be required to come in child-resistant packages.

Secondly, the e-cigarettes pose negligible to no risk to the bystanders. Therefore, they are exempt from the public smoking laws that are applicable to the tobacco cigarettes. The Ministry’s statement noted that people who have never smoked are also drawn to vaping as a hobby, although their numbers are quite small. The government discourages it completely and has clarified that vaping is only for smokers trying to quit smoking.

Although this can be disappointing to the many hobbyist vapers in the country, it is still a major milestone for the government to recognize the benefits of vaping. Currently, there is very little research data available on the risks of vaping, although preliminary studies indicate that such risks if they even exist, are far lower than those posed by smoking. In the future, if more research confirms that vaping poses practically zero risks, there may be a further relaxation in the rules.

Finally, the government has taken notice of the fact that the e-cigarettes market is unregulated at the moment. It means that there are no standards and compliances put in place for the design, production, and usage of the e-cigarettes. This can mean anything from electrical accidents to risks arising out of unhealthy e-juices. Therefore, the Ministry has urged the citizens to buy their e-cigarettes and accessories from reputed retailers and brands only.