Last Summer, 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.
Meanwhile, in line with countless arguments by anti-smoking and public health experts across the globe, local doctors had pointed out that the government should have conducted more studies before banning the products. “There is data available regarding e-cigarettes as smoking cessation devices from the UK, so Indian studies should have been taken up by the government as well as health organisations,” said Dr Bharat Gopal, Senior Pulmonologist and Director of the National Chest Centre in Delhi.
Profiling the behavior of vapers
The study titled, “Patterns of Tobacco and E-Cigarette Use Status in India: A Cross-Sectional Survey of 3000 Vapers in Eight Indian Cities,” was conducted with the aim of obtaining data on the characteristics and tobacco behaviour profile of vapers in India.
“The vast majority of smokers (71.3%) reported smoking cessation (30.0%) or reduction in consumption (41.3%) with the help of e-cigarettes.”
An interview-based survey was performed in the 8 largest metropolitan cities in India, recruiting a total of 3000 subjects. The eligible criteria for being able to participate were being a current e-cigarette user, aged 18 years or more. Interviewers were asked to continue recruitment until a total sample of 375 was reached in each target city.
“A total of 3000 vapers (81.4% males and 18.6% females, median age 29 years) participated to the study. The majority (80%) were first exposed to nicotine via tobacco smoking, smokeless tobacco (SLT) use, or both. Most of the subjects (79%) believed that e-cigarettes were less harmful than smoking. The vast majority of smokers (71.3%) reported smoking cessation (30.0%) or reduction in consumption (41.3%) with the help of e-cigarettes. Similar changes were observed in SLT users. Participants reported minimal side effects and some health benefits after e-cigarette use initiation,” reported the researchers.
To this effect they concluded, the majority of vapers who participated in this study were predominantly smokers and SLT users before switching to vaping, with the majority subsequently quitting or reducing tobacco use. After e-cig use initiation, some experienced minimal side effects and/or health benefits.
Indian vapers resort to cheaper low quality brands
Meanwhile, a recent report from India has indicated that despite the vape ban that was set in place, 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.
in line with arguments by multiple public health experts who insist that making any product unavailable just drives people to the black market, Samrat Chowdhery from the Association of Vapers India, said that all the countries which banned e-cigarettes including Mexico, Brazil and Thailand, saw a booming black market.
“It is difficult to enforce regulations as Nicotine is available in all other forms. Formal players making e cigarettes are exiting the market. Once black market industry gains a footover, it will be impossible to get control over it. The government missed a golden opportunity to regulate these products,” he said.