Bans only lead to “thriving underground or black markets for all of these substances banned by the government and it is no different with e-cigarettes.”
In September 2019, the Union Health Ministry had prepared the Prohibition of E-cigarettes Ordinance 2019 for review, and a bill replacing this ordinance was passed in Lok Sabha in January 2020. The latter officially banned the production, trade, transport, storage and advertisement of electronic cigarettes across India.
As a result, violators now face imprisonment of up to one year, or a fine of up to one lakh rupees, and both as a first time violator, followed by a prison sentence of up to three years, along with a fine of up to five lakh rupees, for any subsequent offence.
As predicted by tobacco control experts, data from India have consistently shown that since the measure went into effect, people are still able to purchase vaping products from any paan (local tobacco) shop or online. The only difference is that the official and high quality brands can no longer be found, so young vapers are resorting to cheap and low quality versions.
Bans lead to booming black markets
Moreover, rightly highlights an article on BT, as with any other ban, the market always finds a way. Data from any country following any ban has always indicated that such strict measures only lead to “thriving underground or black markets for all of these substances banned by the government and it is no different with e-cigarettes.”
In fact, another recent article on the The South China Post is cautioning Hong Kong about implementing their imminent vape ban, as data from Australia has shown that the local ban has been counterproductive to decreasing smoking rates.
Smoking rates in Australia have risen by over 21,000 to 2.4 million between 2013 and 2016. “For the first time ever, there has been no statistically significant reduction in the smoking rate, and an increase in the number of smokers in Australia,” said renowned public health expert Colin Mendelsohn back in 2017.
Australia’s strict measures have led to increased smoking rates
He had pointed out that for the first time, the smoking rates in Australia had exceeded those in the US. “This is despite plain packaging and the most expensive cigarette prices in the world.” A packet of cigarettes in Australia costs an average of $25.10, while in the UK it would cost $14.80 and $8.50 in the US. Sadly, several restrictions on safer alternatives later, the situation remains unchanged.
The public health expert who is an advocate for the use of e-cigarettes for harm reduction, pointed out that clearly the “punitive and coercive” approach that the country has adopted, is not working. And supporting his arguments, is data from the UK, where the opposite approach has been adopted and smoking rates have reached an all time low.
Tobacco harm reduction works
To this effect, says the article on the Post, while vaping may not be the ideal way to quit smoking, discarding it when it is the most effective method is nonsensical. “Vaping nicotine is one of the most effective means of quitting smoking. It’s not perfect – not consuming nicotine at all is preferable – but it is vastly safer than inhaling smoke into the lungs. It is not the nicotine that causes lung and heart disease, but the thousands of other chemicals in smoke.”
Both the articles referred to above, mention the Public Health England research, which is updated on a regular basis and keeps indicating year after year, that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Infact, the agency’s seventh independent report on vaping in England, highlighted the following points.
- “Vaping is the most popular aid (27.2%) used by smokers trying to quit in England in 2020
- More than 50,000 smokers stopped smoking in 2017 with the aid of vaping
- 38% of smokers believed that vaping is as harmful as smoking while 15% believed that vaping is more harmful”