• The Indian Journal of Clinical Practice (IJCP) Group, a doctor-run publisher of medical journals, has come under flak from public health experts for partnering with American e-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc.
• Juul, which is evaluating an entry into India, has retained the Group to “better understand the India market”.
E-cigarettes as harmful
• E-cigarettes, which dispense nicotine by heating a liquid, are a controversial subject.
• Even though their aerosols are thought to contain fewer carcinogens than cigarette smoke, experts are divided about their safety.
• India’s Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare favours a ban, and has advised all States to clamp down on the sales and manufacture of these products.
• However, some experts say e-cigarettes can be a part of “harm reduction” policies, because they are a comparatively safe alternative to combustible cigarettes.
Far from clear
• Despite studies such as the one by NEJM, the benefits of e-cigarettes are far from clear. Their addictive-potential is not understood, and some studies show that they can act as a gateway drug for adolescents.
• “Until independent large scale cohort studies among smokers and mixed tobacco users of varying intensity prove harm reduction benefits of ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems), the introduction of any new technology is a big risk to public health” .
• Another factor muddying the evidence around e-cigarettes is that the tobacco industry funds several harm-reduction initiatives, leading to worries that it may be distorting data.
• For this reason, the World Health Organisation said in a statement in September 2018 that any industry-funded research “cannot be taken at face value.”
Mains Paper 2: Health
Prelims level: Indian Journal of Clinical Practice