E-cigarettes were outlawed in India, in September 2019
In September, 2019, a ban on the production, import and sale of vaping products in India was announced by officials. The India vaping ban came amid an updated guidance from the World Health organisation which encouraged the prohibition of e-cigarettes.
The ban covers manufacture, importation, sale and advertising of electronic cigarettes. This therefore targets the vendors and distributors of vaping supplies and cuts off the supply to the consumer.
However, the ban does not cover the personal consumption of vaping products. This means that by the letter of the law, Indian residents and visitors to the country should be allowed to use the vaping goods they own freely. Unfortunately, the authorities seem to have misunderstood the legislation as there have been reports of UK citizens having their e-cigarettes and e-liquid seized at airports, unsuspectingly.
More than 850,000 UK residents travel to India each year and we can estimate that around 50,000 (6%) of these are vapers. If UK vapers are not allowed to vape in India, and could have their vaping goods seized, then we should at least be notified of this guidance before we travel.
The New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) has written to the UK Government advising to update its travel advice. Within the message, NNA Chair, Martin Cullip said,
“It is not up to the UK to dictate how India chooses to treat e-cigarettes, however, it is important that UK travellers are aware of the reception they might receive if they fly to India. We have written to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office saying that it is imperative UK citizens are aware of situations such as this in order that they can make informed decisions about whether to travel to India. Our letter asks the FCO to clarify the law with the Government of India and to update their advice to travellers accordingly.”.
The NNA letter also states,
“UK citizens affected can give strength to this letter by contacting either the FCO if they are back in the UK, or one of our High Commission offices if in India.”
The reasons behind the India vaping ban
Officials have claimed the India vaping ban comes amid concerns of youth uptake of vaping. India’s finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman said,
“The decision was made keeping in mind the impact that e-cigarettes have on the youth of today.”
The theory that e-cigarettes are attracting youth has been disproved numerous times by leading health experts here in the UK. Nevertheless, the WHO still uses this theory to push its agenda which supports prohibition of e-cigarettes and neglects the potential of harm reduction.
It does seem odd that the finance minister would be the spokesperson on this topic. However, it seems more plausible when you suggest the theory laid out in The Print. The publication exposes India’s Government’s stake in the country’s largest domestic manufacturer of cigarettes.
The government and state-owned companies hold a 28.64% stake in in India Tobacco Company Limited (ITC). As the ban was announced, stock prices of Indian tobacco companies unsurprisingly rose. This may give some explanation as to why the finance minister was commenting on the ban as opposed to the health minister.
Smoking in India
India is home to over 100 million smokers. This makes India the world’s second-largest consumer of tobacco products, behind China. As other countries are endorsing e-cigarettes and seeing great results, it’s astounding that a country with over 100 million smokers is, not only ignoring these success stories, but actually opposing them.
Despicably, no ban or further regulation on traditional tobacco products has been announced in India. However, this is unsurprising considering the aforementioned point that the Indian government holds significant stakes in domestic tobacco manufacturers.
The number of vapers worldwide increased rapidly over the past 8 years. This in turn has coincided with a significant decrease in worldwide smoking rates. Forward-thinking countries, including the UK have embraced vaping as a tobacco control tool. This has resulted in a steep decline in smoking prevalence in the UK, which now sits at around 15%.
The British Government recognises that the relative safety of vaping should be compared with that of smoking. Public Health England estimates that vaping is 95% safer than smoking. Further research from other leading health organisations and researchers shows that e-cigarettes are the most popular and effective smoking cessation aid.
It’s frustrating that the global outlook on vaping seems to be tainted by misplaced agendas.