If each vaper takes it upon themselves to talk about it to others and tell them how vaping changed their lives, public opinion is bound to shift in our direction…Samrat Chowdhery AVI
The Fight To Stop The India Vape Ban And Save Millions Of Lives
India is home to a staggering 12% of the world’s smokers and as the country’s Government considers a total ban on e-cigarettes one group is fighting to save vaping and in the process save umpteen millions of lives.
The Association of Vapers India may be small but are growing daily and despite the Indian Government trying hard to ignore them – slowly but surely dialogue with the reluctant politicians is starting – but is it too late?
I chatted with one of the founding members of AVI – Samrat Chowdhery – who had just returned from a vaping advocacy meeting in Bangkok where he and other Asian based vape groups had met to discuss how they stop their country’s vape bans.
He’s an extremely busy man but also refreshingly optimistic at facing the mountain the group has to climb – particularly having to deal with this type of comment from a government health advisor who recently said:
E-cigarettes are just a mechanism to deliver nicotine in an attractive format. They are being marketed as a harm reduction product which is contrary to the truth. Youngsters are being lured as it is easily available in different flavours, people should not get lured into puffing e-cigs because they too, are harmful.
If you think that’s to say the least a little out of touch then just this week Indian politician Venkaiah Naidu during a parliamentary debate asked Health Minister J.P. Nadda what an e-cigarette was!
Like I said a mountain to climb!
The Sheer Number Of Smokers Dying In India Is Outrageous
In all seriousness India has around 120million smokers with 900,000 smokers dying EVERY YEAR from tobacco related illnesses.
My God let that sink in for a moment – a sobering figure to say the least.
There’s no real figure on the amount of vapers in India – but AVI now has 500 members and can draw on the support of 5,000 others and in a country of 1.3billion people to say they are small is an understatement.
But trust me after having contact with Samrat I can say without doubt they are determined – dedicated – highly professional and not to be taken lightly.
Anything and I mean absolutely anything you can do to help these guys will be appreciated.
I’d like to thank Samrat for taking the time out of his extremely busy schedule to chat with me and wish him and indeed AVI all the best for the coming battles.
Why and when was the AVI formed?
Association of Vapers India (AVI) was founded in wake of the vape ban in Karnataka (a state in India with a large number of vapers) in June 2016. Though restrictions on sale of eliquids existed in some states, they were based on an overreaching interpretation of an existing law.
This was the first time a state had banned ENDS directly, which was alarming. There was growing concern in the Indian vaping community something should be done to counter the ban lest other states be encouraged to follow suit.
A few online vaping communities existed at the time – most notably a forum, Indian Vapers, and an FB group, The Great Vaping Community of India – which were geared towards helping new vapers and as a platform for local vendors. A need was felt to form a body dedicated to vaping advocacy.
Who were the founding members?
After initial enquiries with legal experts on the vape ban, about 6-7 vapers and independent vendors came together to discuss the idea of an advocacy organization. The community is small in India, so it was self-defeating for vapers and sellers, most of whom were vapers themselves, to divide efforts.
Though among the mechanisms debated was forming a vendors body, on advice of well-known experts, including Dr Konstatinos Farsalinos, who pointed out the limitations of a trade organization in dealing with the government, it was decided AVI would be formed as a consumer forum, with the vendors lending support from outside but playing no role in the functioning.
The founding members were: Samrat Chowdhery, Nilesh Sharma, Pravin Pillai and Vijayendra Bhoir.
What are your aims?
We have three main aims – to challenge the vape bans, promote tobacco harm reduction among lawmakers and smokers, and ensure vapers have access to safe products. The regulatory landscape is changing rapidly in the country, with now even the central government mulling a national ban.
In response, we are upping our game and exploring legal recourse in the Supreme Court, as well as opening formal dialogue with lawmakers and bureaucrats.
There are a lot of factors which are unique to India – large population of smokers (120 million), about 50 million people dependent on tobacco industry, high reliance on tobacco tax, etc. – which require specialised solutions, and cooperation from many stakeholders.
How many members do you have now?
We have about 500 members registered with AVI, though we draw support from about 5,000 vapers who are members of various online vaping communities and actively support AVI initiatives.
How can more people join?
Please visit this page: VAPE INDIA REGISTRATION
How are you funded?
The organization is funded through donations from vapers, independent vendors and other vaping bodies. If anyone would like to contribute, please visit: VAPE INDIA DONATE
Are you talking to the Indian Government about vaping?
It is only recently that we became aware of the Centre’s intention to ban vaping nationally. Though some informal dialogue has taken place, and we have written to the health minister advising against the ban and efforts are now being made to open a formal line of communication.
The PIL filed by us in August 2017 challenging the vape ban in Karnataka has also signaled to the authorities that an alternate viewpoint exists on this issue. We intend to file a similar case against a vape ban in another state, Jammu & Kashmir, and are also actively considering intervening in a case on vaping filed in Delhi.
An overture has also been made to the government in Maharashtra. AVI is forever open to dialogue, though so far we have noticed reluctance on part of the governments to engage with us.
Your reaction to the study: E-Cigarettes Promise or Threat?
Though there are some factual inaccuracies, and some assumptions are outdated, we wholeheartedly agree with the central point that the government should take the regulatory route than ban vaping. We also endorse the view that an overtly cautious approach to harm reduction, by taxing vaping at the same level as cigarettes, will be counterproductive.
India has a huge tobacco burden and lacks the public healthcare infrastructure to deal with it, which makes the role of risk-reduced products more crucial.
Note: you can download a copy of E-Cigarettes Promise or Threat? HERE
Your message to smokers and vapers in India.
Given the staggering number of smokers in the country, India can benefit tremendously from shifting this population to harm-reduced alternatives. However, unlike in other nations, the government here has gone after vaping before it could take off, limiting us by numbers and resources.
This has made our fight harder, and we need to make stronger efforts to gain our right to choose a healthier life. Our message is to stand up and be counted, join forces and don’t give up!
Awareness about vaping is still low, and many don’t know about its benefits. If each vaper takes it upon themselves to talk about it to others and tell them how vaping changed their lives, public opinion is bound to shift in our direction. It is the battle of perception that we must not lose at any cost.
Please follow updates about our activities:
Twitter: Vape India
FB: AV India
Website: Association Of Vapers India
For reference here’s the other articles I’ve written on the fight to save vaping in India: