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E-Cigarette Ban Will Avert The Risk Of Nicotine Addiction Among Indian Youth

In a milestone move that would have an exponential impact, the government of India has protected generations from nicotine addiction, reiterating its commitment to protect and promote health and wellness among its citizens, especially young people. While the ordinance to ban e-cigarette came into effect on September 18, 2019, it continues to be widely debated and discussed in the country. The Hon’ble Prime Minister, in his speech at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly’s Universal Health Coverage meeting, proudly stated that the growing craze of e-cigarettes in India was worrisome, and therefore, to protect the youth from this grave danger, India has banned e-cigarettes.

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The political will to get rid of this menace is very high, and tobacco control experts have widely applauded it; however, many experts, doctors and organizations are questioning the ban. They all argue about the harm—reduction aspect of e-cigarette over traditional cigarettes. The mainstream and social media are flooded by this harm-reduction lobby citing individual rights, safer alternatives, calling them a de-addiction tool and many more ill-informed and industry-supported arguments.

The efficacy and safety of e-cigarette as a quitting aid have not yet been firmly established by research. Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, from Tata Memorial Hospital, says “Tobacco’s lobby argument on e-cigarettes being less harmful is based on a study which was completely flawed, and authors had a serious conflict of interest. ENDS was indeed a golden goose for the industry.” The tobacco industry was creating an additional market segment for nicotine-based products as well as sustaining the existing cigarette market. Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 was litigated heavily by the tobacco industry, and even after 16 years, enforcement remains a deep concern. Therefore banning is the right step!

The tobacco industry has always been one step ahead of all regulations; gutkha (tobacco) ban is a case example. Gutkha was banned by FSSAI in 2011, following which, the Supreme Court also gave strict directives of enforcement. To circumvent the ban, gutkha companies started selling pan masala separately with pure tobacco—for the users to mix and chew. Recently, the National Tobacco Testing Laboratory has also found nicotine in many pan masalas, contrary to what the packaging claims. A similar regulation on e-cigarettes would become challenging, as it would lead to more legal battles, and testing and enforcement nightmares for the officials.

Therefore, it was imperative to ban e-cigarettes before they take over the population, and addict a large section like gutkha did in the 90s. A complete ban will make it inaccessible to the youth. Most definitely, e-cigarette companies will continue illicit trade, we have already observed this happening over WhatsApp widely in Delhi. However, the high prices and the inaccessibility will be a deterrent in access to youth. Eventually, they will not be seen sold or promoted and used!

India has taken long strides in the last decade with a 17% relative reduction in overall tobacco use prevalence and about 23% relative reduction in smoking prevalence alone, between the two GATS, India. The prevalence of e-cigarette smoking is only 0.02% as of the latest GATS (2016–17). Hence, it is obvious that vaping did not have any role whatsoever in reducing the smoking prevalence during the seven years between two GATS.

Dr Rijo John, a leading expert in the economics of tobacco control states “India doesn’t need vaping as a tool or strategy for tobacco harm reduction. We can achieve tobacco harm reduction and have done it without vaping.” The prevalence of tobacco users among minors aged 15–17 has also decreased substantially from 10% in GATS1 to 4% in GATS2, due to the multi-pronged strategies and work of the government and non-government organizations.

Cigarette companies that also own/fund most of the e-cigarette companies have also observed that initiation of cigarette smoking is reducing among the youth. Cigarette smoking is not a fad anymore, and children/youth are getting more aware of its ill-effects. Therefore, e-cigarette in the garb of harm-reduction is the perfect tool for them to ensure nicotine addiction remains high among the coming generations, and their profits continue to sore.

Is this a cost that all the vaping advocates are willing to bear—continuous and endless generations of nicotine addicts caught younger and younger in this trap?! Is this a cost worth the safer-alternative argument that current nicotine/tobacco addicts support? I would like to ask them, what would they prefer, safeguarding their health quitting tobacco themselves with proven alternative methods, or give tobacco companies the luxury to use them as fronts of harm-reduction strategies and allow them to continue to nurture future addicts?!

Seema Gupta, is a public health expert working on issues of Tobacco control and Maternal Child Adolescent  Health. The above article was first published here.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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