India bans e-cigarettes as vaping backlash grows

A roadside tobacco shop vendor displays an e cigarette in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. (AP)
Updated 18 September 2019

India bans e-cigarettes as vaping backlash grows

  • The Indian ban covers the production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage of e-cigarettes, as well as advertisements

NEW DELHI: India announced on Wednesday a ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes, as a backlash gathers pace worldwide about a technology promoted as less harmful than smoking tobacco.
The announcement by India came a day after New York became the second US state to ban flavoured e-cigarettes following a string of vaping-linked deaths.
“The decision was made keeping in mind the impact that e-cigarettes have on the youth of today,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters in New Delhi.
E-cigarettes heat up a liquid — tasting of anything from bourbon to bubble gum or just tobacco, and which usually contains nicotine — into vapor which is inhaled.
The vapor is missing the estimated 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke but does contain a number of substances that could potentially be harmful.
They have been pushed by producers, and also by some governments including in Europe as a safer alternative — and as a way to kick the habit.
However critics say that apart from being potentially harmful in themselves, the flavours of some liquids have turned millions of children into vapers — and potential future smokers.
The emergency legislation in New York, the second US state to ban flavoured e-cigarettes, followed a mysterious outbreak of severe pulmonary disease that has killed seven people and sickened hundreds.
President Donald Trump’s administration announced last week that it would soon ban flavoured e-cigarette products to stem a rising tide of youth users.
Legislation is also being tightened elsewhere, and in Singapore e-cigarettes are already outlawed. In Japan, vaping and alternatives like “heat not burn” tobacco vaporizers are allowed but e-juices with nicotine are not.
China, home to almost a third of the world’s smokers, indicated in July that it wants the “supervision of electronic cigarettes” to be “severely strengthened.”
The Indian ban covers the production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage of e-cigarettes, as well as advertisements.
The government said it would “advance tobacco control efforts” and “contribute to a reduction in tobacco usage.” Punishments include up to a year in prison.
Although few Indians vape at present, the Indian ban also cuts off a vast potential market of 1.3 billion consumers for makers of e-cigarettes.
“Big Tobacco” has been investing heavily in the technology to compensate for falling demand for cigarettes due to high taxes and smoking bans, particularly in the West.
In 2018 Altria, the US maker of Marlboro and Chesterfield, splashed out almost $13 billion on a stake in one of the biggest e-cigarette makers, Juul.
According to the World Health Organization, India is the world’s second-largest consumer of traditional tobacco products, which are not covered by the new ban, killing nearly 900,000 people every year.
Some 35 percent of adults are users, although chewing tobacco — which can also have flavours like chocolate and which also causes cancer — is more prevalent than smoking.
India is also the world’s third-largest producer of tobacco, the WHO says, and tobacco farmers are an important vote bank for political parties.
According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, an estimated 45.7 million people depend on the tobacco sector in India for their livelihood.
India also exports around a billion dollars worth of tobacco annually, and the government holds stakes in tobacco firms including ITC, one of India’s biggest companies.
“I feel it’s absolutely absurd,” Aronjoy, 22, a student and occasional vaper, told AFP in a shop selling e-cigarettes.
“The government believes from my perspective that it’s alight to smoke cigarettes... which is much more injurious for our health that vaping would be.”
The Association of Vapers India said the government’s move “indicates it is more concerned about protecting the cigarette industry than improving public health.”


Why the UN is struggling to function

Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general, called the budget shortfall “the worst cash crisis facing the UN in nearly a decade,” jeopardizing, among other things, peacekeeping efforts and the management of the UN’s New York headquarters. (Ray Hanania)
Updated 16 October 2019

Why the UN is struggling to function

  • World body facing 'the worst cash crisis' in nearly a decade due to mounting arrears
  • Crisis is marked by lack of cash to pay staff and vendors or to fund critical programs

NEW YORK CITY: The UN is facing its worst liquidity shortfall in 74 years of operation with a deficit of $1.385 billion, which is making it difficult for the world body to pay staff and vendors or fund missions.
The crisis has forced Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, to begin cutbacks in all operations.
Warning on Oct. 8 that the problems are at a “tipping point,” he called it “the worst cash crisis facing the UN in nearly a decade,” jeopardizing peacekeeping efforts in Yemen, Myanmar and the management of the UN’s New York headquarters, offices in Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi, and investigative commissions in Bangkok, Addis Ababa, Santiago and Beirut.
A UN budget review presented this week showed that the crisis is being driven by the lack of cash to pay staff and vendors or to fund critical programs, and outlined spending cuts that will begin immediately pending a resolution of the situation.
“The cash deficits occur earlier in the year, linger longer and run deeper,” said Catherine Pollard, UN under-secretary-general for management strategy, policy and compliance.
“For the second successive year, we have exhausted all regular budget liquidity reserves, despite several measures we had taken to reduce expenditures to align them with available liquidity.”
Chandramouli Ramanathan, UN's controller, detailed the debt in a presentation with Pollard on Oct. 11 that identified $1.385 billion in debts, more than half of the UN’s 2019 annual budget of $2.85 billion.
Ramanathan said that only $1.99 billion had been collected this year, including past year arrears.
“If the trend continues … you will pretty much see that at some point we are running out of liquidity so often — everything depends on the liquidity if the liquidity runs down, we have to prioritize the payment,” he said.
“It will come to the point where you will not have enough staff or not have enough to pay the vendors.”
Ramanathan said that 75 percent of the UN’s budget is for employee and building costs. The remainder includes air charters, fuel, rations, IT support and political missions, which he said are all in jeopardy.
This does not include the costs of peacekeeping missions, nearly $8 billion for 2019, but which are nearly $3.7 billion in arrears.
A slew of operating spending cuts at the UN began on Oct. 14, ranging from no new hirings or filling of vacant positions to switching off heating and airconditioning.
Ramanathan said that these were emergency steps but warned failure to address the “liquidity crisis” would result in other more serious cutbacks including funding of operations, missions and more.

UN OPERATING SPENDING CUTS

• No new hirings or filling of vacant positions

• Reducing operating hours of UN facilities including the New York City headquarters

• Suspending release of new documents, studies and translation of documents

• Curtailing travel of UN officials, meetings or publicly scheduled receptions

• Cutting back operations at the UN headquarters and its worldwide centers, including turning off the use of electricity for certain building operations such as escalators, and shutting down the UN’s fountains

• Heating and air conditioning to be turned off at 6 p.m. each day and not turned on until 8 a.m. at UN buildings

“We are trying to cut back on non-salaried costs, operating hours to meet obligations and to vendors,” he said.
Ramanathan said that the UN was prohibited by its charter from borrowing money. He acknowledged that traditionally member countries were late in paying, usually until the last half of the year or last quarter, but the late payments had become “later and later” each year.
“The US is the largest contributor and they have a large outstanding amount … the US has a large amount outstanding,” Ramanathan said, noting that the UN does single out and list specific debts or debtors.
“We are in active engagement with all the states that owe large amounts.”

Ramanathan identified seven member nations that had failed to pay their memberships fully and accounted for 97 percent of the debt owed: the US ($1.06 billion), Brazil ($143 million), Argentina ($51.5 million), Mexico ($36 million), Iran ($26.9 million), Israel ($17.7 million) and Venezuela ($17.2 million).
He said that a total of 65 other countries were in arrears for their annual dues, based on country size and per capita income, but that represented less than 3 percent of the operating budget shortfall. Only 128 members were fully paid up for this year.
According to Ramanathan, the US owes its annual membership dues of $674 million for 2019, and $381 million for previous years.
UN officials declined to comment on reports that Guterres is seeking to address the unpaid US monies in a meeting with US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticized the UN and the US financial obligations.
But an independent report by UN Dispatch, which is funded by the UN Foundation, reported on Dec. 6, 2016, that the UN’s headquarters generated $3.69 billion in benefits to New York City’s economy through jobs, commerce, hotels and retail spending by delegates and their staff.
One example of the costs includes accommodating the more than 1,500 journalists, delegates and support staff at the opening of the UN’s 74th General Assembly in New York City on Sept. 23.

The cash deficits occur earlier in the year, linger longer and run deeper.

Catherine Pollard, UN under-secretary-general for management strategy, policy and compliance

The UN erected a huge outdoor media tent in its grounds to accommodate journalists, providing access to the internet, electrical outlets, video and audio feeds, tables and work stations.
But these journalists, staff and delegates also brought with them revenue for the host city — filling hotels and restaurants, and generating profits for retailers, cabs and other businesses.
Despite the financial benefits New York City reaps from the UN headquarters presence, and the power the US wields at the UN, Trump brushed aside reports of the budget crisis or his nation’s failure to pay its share of the UN costs during his address on Sept. 24 to the UN General Assembly.
And a week later, Trump tweeted in response to UN officials’ budget concerns: “So make all Member Countries pay, not just the United States!”
The UN could suspend the voting of any nation that fails to pay its dues under Article 19 of the UN Charter, which states: “A Member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years. The General Assembly may, nevertheless, permit such a Member to vote if it is satisfied that the failure to pay is due to conditions beyond the control of the Member.” (Article 19 of the Charter of the United Nations)
A UN staff member said that it was unlikely that the UN would implement the rule against the US and that they fully expected the US “to pay at least part of what it owes” before the end of the year.
The UN was created in 1945 with the goal of ending human-rights abuses.
The power of the UN rests with the 15-member Security Council, which the US is a member of and controls through its veto to block any policies or resolutions it opposes.
The UN General Assembly includes 193 nations, serving as a platform for advocacy and action.