Cancer specialist Professor Pankaj Chaturvedi, Deputy Director, Tata Memorial Center, Mumbai has written to Queen Elizabeth informing her about the dangers of e-cigarettes or vaping as it is commonly known.
Chaturvedi in the letter mentioned that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Prime Minister banned e-cigarettes so that this new form of intoxication does not destroy our demographically young country. It does not trample on the dreams of a family and waste the lives of our children. This scourge and this obnoxious habit should not become rooted in our society.
To date, over 20 countries, mostly in South America, the Middle East and South-East Asia, have banned the sale of e-cigarette products.
Here is the letter:
“Your Majesty Queen Elizabeth,
Copy to – Mr Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, United Kingdom
Subject – Your Excellency please inform your Health Ministry that less harm does not mean harmless
I am a cancer specialist in India’s premier cancer facility in Mumbai. I witness death, disease and devastation caused by tobacco every day in my clinic. Most respectfully, I am writing this open letter to bring to your attention something that is not only harmful for 2.5 million vapers in UK but also misguided the public in India. What most don’t realize is the fact that this is tobacco industry tactics to revitalize themselves. You had once said “I cannot lead you into battle. I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else – I can give my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.”
In 1910, a British-owned cigarette company registered in Calcutta as Imperial Tobacco Company of India Limited. Since Cigarette industry needed huge amount of raw tobacco for its European market, it formalized tobacco cultivation in 1912 in India. This British company established the first cigarette factory of India in 1913. As per an estimate, cigarette Industry is responsible for premature deaths of 23 million Indians in last 100 years. British American Tobacco Company continues to be a major investor in ITC ltd, India’s leading cigarette manufacturer. While Indians had still not forgotten this unflattering legacy of Britain’s contribution to India, we were bombarded by yet another British reference in a related matter. Recently Government of India banned E cigarettes or Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS) based on irrefutable scientific evidence. Supporting the ban, Narendra Modi Prime Minister of India said “E-cigarette has been banned so that this new form of intoxication does not destroy our demographically young country. It does not trample on the dreams of a family and waste the lives of our children. This scourge and this obnoxious habit should not become rooted in our society”. To date, over 20 countries, mostly in South America, the Middle East and South-East Asia, have banned the sale of e-cigarette products. Government and Public health specialists in these countries are at logger heads with the tobacco lobby who are the prime investors in ENDS. ENDS lobby’s claims of being victim of Cigarette lobby is a smoke screen behind which both are great pals.
The main argument of the ENDS aka Tobacco lobby was that “Public Health England has said that E cigarette is 95% safer than cigarette”. Even Royal college of Physicians has been extensively quoted as supportive of ENDS. Such things are unimaginable from the land of Dorothy Hodgkin, Isaac Newton, Alexander Fleming, Rosalind Franklin etc.
This magic figure of 95% is being constantly exploited by tobacco lobby to market yet another deadly addiction in developing world including India. The authors of this figure assumed that absence of harmful smoking- related chemicals makes ENDS safer. They ignored the fact that nicotine in pure form is a toxic chemical with a lethal dose of 30mg for an adult. This distorted evidence had contributors from the reputed institutions of London such as King's College, Queen Mary University etc. It is shocking that this conclusion was derived from two grossly flimsy references and not a robust research. First reference was a briefing report to the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pharmacy. The other reference was an article published in European Addiction Research. In 2013, the authors of this paper hosted a 2 day workshop of experts to discuss on “relative importance of different types of harm related to the use of nicotine-containing products”. The experts scored the products for their health effects, and weightings were given to the results. At the end, cigarettes were ranked as the most harmful with a score of 99·6 and E-cigarettes received a harm-score of 4%. Having said that, many experts in that workshop had serious conflict of interest that was not revealed in their publication. For strange reasons, PHE immediately acted on this recommendation that misled the whole world and paved way for introduction of ENDS. I am dismayed to say that PHE did not caution the readers about either the conflict of Interest or poor quality of the evidence. PHE has failed in its mandate to “protects and improves the nation's health and wellbeing”. The entire narrative of safety of ENDS over traditional cigarette now stands shattered. The epidemic of adolescent vaping is an unprecedented phenomenon happening in USA. It has already caused 12 deaths and more than 800 serious lung injuries in USA in just 3 months! Let me quote you once again – “When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.”
It is unfair to give entire credit to ENDS for the declining cigarette consumption in UK that would have happened regardless. The countries that have banned ENDS show steeper decline in cigarette consumption than UK. As per Global Adult tobacco survey 2016, India has demonstrated 17 percent relative decrease in tobacco consumption in just 5 years, steepest in the world, without promoting any alternative nicotine delivery system.
There is no conclusive evidence that ENDS is a superior form of quitting over currently approved ones. On the contrary, as per current evidence, one fourth use ENDS along with cigarettes and three fourth remain addicted to ENDS even after quitting cigarettes. This deprives the smokers of a nicotine free or risk free life. Ironically, to my knowledge, ENDS lobby themselves have never claimed quitting benefits and applied to drug regulators as a cessation tool. If ENDS could eliminate smoking, cigarette companies would not invest in their own death. ENDS industry isn’t interested in smokers but their main aim is to convert our innocent kids into Vapers by luring them with 1,500 flavours, including bubble gum and candy floss. In the background of reports of fatalities from US, PHE has emerged as the Messiah of the ENDS lobby. We cannot have snake in our backyard and believe that it will only bite others. There are millions of kids in UK who are exposed to ENDS and they need to be protected immediately. As per Public Health England, around one in six children aged between 11 and 18 have tried e-cigarettes!
We sincerely request you to correct the monumental mistake before it causes further harm to your own population and world citizens. Tony Blair had apologized for believing in false evidence of weapon of mass destruction as pretext of invading Iraq. UK's views on ENDS have invigorated cigarette (true weapon of mass destruction) industry that was on the verge of collapse. You had said “Family does not necessarily mean blood relatives but often a description of a community, organization or nation.” I sincerely request you to protect our family!
Professor Pankaj Chaturvedi
Deputy Director, Tata Memorial Center, Mumbai”