- The Association of Vapers India (AVI) has called for countrywide protests on September 18 to protest against the ban on e-cigarettes
- The AVI feels that the ban deprives smokers of safer alternatives, thus increasing India’s tobacco health burden
- In September last year, the Indian government banned e-cigarettes, attributing the decision to the need to protect youth from addiction to smoking
To protest against the ban on electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) in India, the Association of Vapers India (AVI), a nonprofit advocacy group, has called for countrywide protests to mark September 18 as Black Day.
The association argues that the ban on e-cigarettes and vaping, placed last year by the central government, has deprived chronic smokers who are trying to quit and others who can’t quit, of a healthier alternative. E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices which emit a vaporised solution to inhale. The solution contains nicotine. The aim is to provide the sensation of inhaling tobacco smoke, without the smoke.
“We are bringing vapers together to protest against the draconian ban by the government on September 18 last year. Due to this arbitrary decision, efforts taken to promote harm reduction to reduce India’s tobacco health burden have been wasted. In our country, where nearly a million people die of smoking every year, it is important to promote risk reduction tools,” says AVI director Samrat Chaudhary.
On September 18 last year, the Indian government banned e-cigarettes through the Prohibition of E-cigarettes Ordinance, 2019. The government blamed the uncertain health risks associated with e-cigarettes, vapes and ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems), as the reasons for enforcing the ban.
While announcing the ban, the government said that though e-cigarettes had been promoted as a tool for helping people quit smoking, in some cases, they had proven to be addictive. The government said that the ban was aimed at protecting the youth from being exposed to e-cigarettes, fears first expressed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Vapers Association Says E-Cigarettes Help Quit Smoking
In contrast, AVI feels that the ban on e-cigarettes shows lack of foresight. The association has released a 10-point agenda which elaborates on the reasons as to why the ban on e-cigarettes should be reversed.
One of the points raised by AVI in its agenda talks about the different options for quitting smoking and their success rate. According to the association, cold turkey attempts (abrupt stoppage on smoking) have a measly success rate of 5%, while the use of nicotine gums and patches helped 7% of users quit smoking, with the success rate increasing to 15% when supplemented with further counselling. The association hasn’t mentioned the source for these figures.
The association says that nicotine gums and patches are out of reach for most Indian citizens due to their high price point, also because these are not available at subsidised rates. It claims that e-cigarettes can be made at a price point that bidi smokers can also afford, and are shown to be twice as effective than nicotine gums and patches in helping users wean off their smoking habits.
The association cites data from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey – 2 (GATS-2) to highlight that India has 10.6 Cr people who smoke. It adds that 13.5 lakh Indians continue to die every year from tobacco-related illnesses, with an annual economic loss of up to INR 2 lakh crores. It claims that banning safer alternatives to smoking will only perpetuate India’s tobacco problem.
Other points raised in AVI’s agenda, accuse the government of being hand-in-glove with tobacco companies, whose shares rocketed after India banned e-cigarettes. This assertion of AVI has also been backed by other non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Last year, after the ban on e-cigarettes, several NGOs questioned the government for not banning traditional cigarettes to safeguard the health of its citizens.
Atul Goyal, the president of United Residents Joint Action (URJA) had alleged that many government members were active in tobacco companies and earned dividends from the companies that produce, promote and sell cigarettes.
In its agenda, AVI blames the government for not looking to conduct scientific research on the impact of e-cigarettes but instead, relying on research studies conducted in other countries, which AVI claims have since been discredited.
Moreover, the agenda adds that the outright ban on e-cigarettes has proven ineffective and has led to the sale of such products in major cities through a black market. It claims that while proper regulation would have brought economic benefits for the country from the industry, while also ensuring that the products are kept out of the reach of children, the ban has brushed the issue under the carpet to an extent where the potentially negative consequences of the use of e-cigarettes could fester into a problem of unmanageable proportions.