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.

But the battle to stop the Indian government from an outright ban on e-cigarettes has begun.

The fight is being led by the Association of Vapers India – [AVI] a non-profit advocacy group of around 300 members.

India is the next major battleground to get vaping as a harm reduction tool accepted.

avi india

Sadly the Indian Government made its thoughts on the matter all too obvious with the 12th hour and spiteful cancellation of the recent Vape Expo India a move that left hundreds of vape companies from across the world stranded and severely out of pocket.

Those fighting to stop the Indian government banning e-cigs have recently received the backing of pro-vaping cardiologist Dr Konstantinos E. Farsalinos who in effect said the government was risking the lives of the millions of smokers in the country:

In my opinion, banning e-cigarettes is against public health. I think it’s going to have an impending adverse consequence, because the ban will deprive Indian smokers of a substantially less harmful alternative.

His opinions are echoed across the country that is home to a staggering 120million smokers which in real terms means the country makes up 12% of the worlds smokers – a really quite frightening statistic.

But even more sobering is the figure of 900,000 smokers who die of smoking related diseases in the country EVERY YEAR.

Professor R.N. Sharan from the North-Eastern Hill University in Shillong, Meghalaya said:

Banning is a hasty decision and can be counter-productive, because we are not aware of the extent of e-cigarette use or its harm in India.

Confusion Over Nicotine and Tobacco

Sadly it looks like those looking to get e-cigs and vaping accepted in India are facing a huge uphill battle expecially when Arun Kumar Jha a so called expert and member of the country’s health ministry said recently:

Nicotine is as harmful as tobacco – We have no evidence to show it reduces smoking.

Pity I didn’t have his email address as I could supply him with a wealth of scientific arguments to the contrary.

cold turkey

At the moment and despite vaping being proclaimed illegal in some states in the country the Government’s hands are tied as e-cigarettes do not come under any of the country’s current laws.

To preempt the Government rushing through new laws back in August the AVI filed public interest litigation against the ban on the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes in Karnataka.

The High Court will look at the case at the end of September and by filing this the AVI has forced the government’s hand as they will need to respond.

Open Letter to the Indian Government

The AVI has also written directly to the Union Health Minister – Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda – asking that he and the government considers regulation rather than banning.

We are writing on behalf of Association of Vapers India ( AVI). AVI is an advocacy group of the people, created with the sole objective of spreading awareness about the healthier alternative to tobacco/cigarettes. We also intend to work with the government in framing policy guidelines that will help save the lives of millions of Indian smokers. No business or individuals with vested interest are involved in our day to day operations.

Sir, we have come across media reports on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Devices (ENDS) regulations and the views of the expert committees set-up by the Ministry of Health, Government of India, to examine the issue. Further, various State Governments have taken undue extreme measures like prohibiting the sale of electronic cigarettes, without evaluating the consequences of the decision.

At the outset, we would like to emphasise on the scientific evidence of the “harm reduction” potential of ENDS, and consequently, the benefit they can provide to millions of smokers in India (11.2% of world’s smokers, 900,000 annual deaths) who can substitute their current nicotine product with an ENDS device. Also, regulators world over have adopted a more balanced approach of regulating the category instead of complete prohibition.

The letter goes on to cite the growing amount of evidence out there supporting the claim ‘vaping is safer than smoking’ including links to Public Health England – Tobacco Control Plan UK and the recent FDA report.

The letter ends with a plea not to ban vaping in India as:

  • Such a decision would subvert the harm-reducing potential of the category
  • It would ignore the mounting scientific evidence on the category from across the world and acceptance of these products as a safer alternative.
  • It will provide a huge fillip to smuggling of these products into India
  • It will rob the right of millions of smokers and vapers in India

You can read the full letter HERE.

Now A Chat With Samrat Chowdhery, Member of the AVI.

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!

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 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.

india law

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

Vapers in India Need to Get Involved

Let’s hope something – anything – comes from this letter and let’s hope many more vapers in India wake up and join the fight.

Because it stories from vapers like 33-year-old Rahul Adhlakha from Delhi who after smoking for 16 years and after developing serious chest problems tried an e-cig:

Since that day, I have not smoked a single cigarette – I started vaping with 6ml of nicotine, but have now reduced the nicotine content to 3ml in a month’s time.

Rahul Adhlakha
Rahul Adhlakha far right

Or how about ex smoker and now vaping advocate Adarsh Kaushal who spends his days encouraging smokers to quit:

For me it is social service and I am doing my bit to save them.</span

Those are just two stories from 120million smokers in the country – a tiny fraction but multiply that 120million times and you can see the effect e-cigarettes would have on the country.

The Indian government needs to take this matter as seriously as they can – they need to listen to the real harm reduction experts and act now – because quite frankly millions of lives are at risk.

You can find out more about the Association of Vapers India by clicking the link.

The threat to ban vaping in india

Millions of Lives at Risk as Government Considers Vape Ban

If the Indian Government bans e-cigarettes it is literally sentencing hundreds of millions of its people to a slow agonizing death.

India is the next major battleground on the vaping divide with major health organizations in the country calling for a complete ban whilst Indian vapers are desperately fighting a rear guard action to change the Government’s mind.

Vaping sales – both bricks and mortar and online – are already banned in the states of Karnataka – Jammu – Kashmir – Kerala – Punjab and Maharashtra and could now go country wide.

The reason once again seems to be so called health professionals ignoring findings from the major organizations that vaping is 95% safer than smoking and instead promoting unfounded and at times scurrilous untruths.

Take for instance the comments from Bhavna B Mukhopadhyay – the chief executive of the Voluntary Health Association of India.

He told the website DoctorNDTV that e-cigarettes were not harm reduction devices at all:

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.

Now this guy apparently has the ear of the Indian Government and his voice of doom looks like it’s being heard.

Officials Convinced Vaping is as Bad as Smoking

At the moment there’s no law in India which will allow the Government to ban e-cigarettes.

However so keen are they to stub out their use a committee is currently looking to see if any existing laws can be used such as the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and the Food Safety & Standards [Prohibition and Restriction on Sales].

Desperate times or what!

A ‘senior’ Government official said recently:

COTPA (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act) does not have a provision to ban and therefore, we are faced with the challenge of finding a strong provision. We are convinced about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes but if we do not back it up with a strong pro vision under the law then it will fall flat in the courts.

So the Indian Government is ‘convinced about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes’ are they.

How on earth do they come to that conclusion because as I keep reporting more and more studies are being produced showing they most certainly are not as harmful as the powers that be would like us to believe.

Take this recent study by boffins at St Andrews University Scotland with the rather long winded title: Comparing the cancer potencies of emissions from vapourised nicotine products including e-cigarettes with those of tobacco smoke – and breathe lol.

This study was very recently published in the BMJ [British Medical Journal] and the key finding?

Optimal combinations of device settings, liquid formulation and vaping behaviour normally result in e-cigarette emissions with much less carcinogenic potency than tobacco smoke.

In a nutshell they found that inhaling the vapour from an e-cigarette has a 1% cancer risk compared to smoking.

But hey those health officials in India know best as the Health Secretary C K Mishra told the Times of India a decision on the ban would be coming very soon adding:

We are looking into all aspects of e-cigarettes, and working on a methodology to contain the harm from it.

120 Million Smokers and Rising in India

According to online news site YourStory a staggering 11.2% of the world’s smokers live live in India.

Wow…

india smoking

Let that sink in for a moment.

Latest reports shows that India is home to 1.3 billion people – therefore hundreds of millions of Indians smoke – that’s a lot of profit for Big Tobacco but I digress.

And where are the major vape manufacturers in all this?

There’s a lot of potential vapers in India…

According to the web approximately 120million people smoke in India – like I said big profits to be made and maybe more importantly lives to be saved.

In fact smoking among men in particular has risen a staggering 36% over the last decade – wow.

I have visited India a few times when I was a smoker and can attest that everyone and his mother seemed to smoke – the richer ones cheap China brand imports like Win – whilst the poorer bought those little roll-ups that come in bundles of 5 – man they are harsh!

Vaping a Growing Trend

Vaping in India is relatively new but it’s really starting to take off with a number of entrepreneurial types taking the plunge and bringing the devices to the masses.

One such guy is Delhi based Anant Jangwal who has watched his fledgling business Vape Stop grow almost 100% in turnover since its launch back in February.

Anant Jangwal
Anant Jangwal [via YourStory]
He told YourStory:

Since e-cigarettes came to India, there has been a growing debate over the acceptance of vaping as a safe alternative to reduce tobacco consumption. Health experts are demanding necessary regulations to prohibit sale of e-cigarettes to minors while the government — skeptical of legalizing vaping in India —has banned e-cigarettes sales (including online) in some states including Karnataka, Jammu Kashmir, Kerala, Punjab and Maharashtra.

However and despite the threats by the Government to place a blanket ban on vape products in the country Ananat is optimistic and has big plans:

Vape Stop’s aim is to create a widespread vaping culture in India, much like the one in the West. Our mission to make the nation tobacco-free by 2030.

We can only wish him well – but how can we help the hundreds of millions of vapers in India looking to use e-cigs to get off the cancer sticks?

Help Save Vaping in India

Politics in India is it’s fair to say about as complex as it gets and I am not qualified to explain it here – suffice it to say complex is a good description!

However Natalia Shchedrina based in Delhi has begun a Change.org petition (Now Closed) calling for the Indian Government to ‘to develop and to adopt a document of e-cigarette regulation at the State level.’

change org india vape petition

Outlining the reason for the petition she says:

The Government should use all possible ways to help people quit a harmful habit. While the countries of Europe and America adopted laws on the regulation e-cigarette use and sale to preserve citizens’ life and health, India is contemplating a ban on the product. Indian people are moving towards technological progress and accepting the healthy lifestyle, and have the right to free choice!

So what do you think about vaping being banned in India? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Source for quotes/images: Scroll.in

Neil Humber
I began vaping in 2012 and found it easy to give up a 40 per day roll-up habit!DTL: Lost Vape DNA75C BF - Dead Rabbit SQ - MTL: JacVapour Sandstorm DNA 75 + Savour RTA...Beater set-up Lost Vape DNA 250c and Reload RTAI'm a former journalist and now a writer and author..I'm an Army veteran - adore dogs and never happier than with a good book on a beach.

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