• Raajveer Singh Bisht

Peddlers of Vice

The banning of E-cigarettes in India is part of a larger movement of worldwide legislation against this “dangerous vice” but is a shining example of the hypocrisy prevalent in governments around the world.

The Cabinet has taken a decision and our Finance Minister has declared that electronic cigarettes pose a grave danger to the youth and thus are to be banned. Following this move the manufacture, distribution, sale etc. of these devices is an offense and the e-cigarettes already possessed by consumers are to be deposited in the nearest police station.

One might mistakenly herald it as a great move for the “protection of the youth” and the preservation of human life, only to be brought back to the reality of the situation. As our government as our ‘guardian’ protects my generation from this vice by banning it, cigarettes are sold throughout the length and breadth of India. As is alcohol (in most states), hookah and other such ‘vices.’ So, one might ask what makes e-cigarettes so dangerous, so corrupting that the government that has never taken action against these other vices had to act so quickly and decisively in this matter?

Unfortunately, our welfare is not the reason. It is in fact the raw power that the tobacco industry holds in our country as it does in so many others. Countless documentaries, sting operations, tell-all books and confessions are but a fraction of the evidence present in the public sphere that reveals the influence of this ‘lobby’ on governments all over the world.

But one may argue that e-cigarettes are harmful to the health of people. So is alcohol, cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Our government however, only holds shares in companies such as ITC which has seen a suspicious (?) rise in stock prices ever since this move was announced. The government which is supposed to be paragons of virtue and guide the masses towards ‘Gandhian’ principles is very much in business with these peddlers of vice. Yet it purports itself to be in a position of moralistic superiority wherein it directs us to abstain from using, owning, buying, selling, manufacturing and distributing the competitors of its business partners.

Ideally, I would look for some silver ray in this move yet the entire matter seems to stink of corporate greed and profit incentives rather than having the fragrance of the ‘Garden of Eden’. Instead of taking away the addictive vices on the market they’ve taken away e-cigarettes that many health experts believe help to give up smoking entirely and help wean the individual off nicotine.

To call this legislature an isolated event on the world stage would be fallacy. The United States too is considering such a ban since a reported 6 children died from these devices, comparatively a measly figure of 4,80,000 reportedly die each year in that nation from cigarette smoking. Thus, one can conclude that e-cigarettes are truly the larger, more menacing threat. One may argue that children are more attracted to e-cigarettes to which one may simply retort that banning the sale of these devices to minors was a much more measured response. No rational being would contend that children should be allowed to smoke. The hypocritical lacklustre response of many world governments against the much older, much more well-established tobacco industry is evident that such legislature is indeed targeted simply to wipe out newer competition.

Many politicians around the world have given passionate speeches against the dangers of e-cigarettes all the while having their campaigns funded by the tobacco industry that lines the pockets of politicians, bureaucrats, judges and attorneys from Los-Angeles to Laos. If our governments do indeed wish to secure for us a better future perhaps, they should focus their efforts on the logging companies responsible for the degradation of flora throughout the world or maybe they should target the multiple online gambling forums that litter the internet with their badly drawn cartoonish ads. The cynic inside us however, declares (perhaps rightly) that until there lies some actual fiscal benefit in these actions no government anywhere would lift a finger.

I also wanted to spread more information about the tobacco lobby and the debate around cigarettes and e-cigarettes so I’ve decided to include some reading material that talks about these issues in depth.

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