Harm reduction: an alternative agenda for India on tobacco control

Lakshmi Ramamurthy, Hon. Trustee of the Centre for Public Policy Research, highlighted that India’s 2019 ban on e-cigarettes did not differentiate between different product classes. Although the finance bill of 2021, the government acknowledged the distinction between traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes and HTP for taxation purposes, this distinction has not been applied in the context of the ban on e-cigarettes.

Panama hosted the tenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10), under the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC), which focuses on demand reduction, supply reduction, and harm reduction. The conference also explored cutting-edge technology and discussed tobacco’s environmental impact, enforcement of civil and criminal laws against the industry, and prioritizing public health rights.

India’s current framework for tobacco control has yet to fully introduce harm reduction strategies, which involve exploring safer alternatives to traditional cigarettes. Countries like the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Sweden, Japan, and Canada have embraced the concept of safer alternatives within their global tobacco control policies.India should focus on scientific harm reduction strategies and explore cutting-edge technology with policymakers worldwide. A risk-based approach, regulating products based on toxicants, should be considered, integrating better and safer alternatives and prioritizing the reduction of smoking prevalence.

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