“This is the most significant independent survey we’ve seen coming out of India since its 2019 vaping ban. It shows an overwhelming call for the Government to lift the ban and regulate access to safer nicotine products,” says Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA).
Her comments follow the release of a ‘Survey of Current & Former Smoke-Free Product Users: India’ conducted by Povaddo – a firm specializing in global public opinion research. The survey was commissioned by consumer advocacy group, Fact Asia.
“India’s government must urgently reconsider its vaping ban which is clearly not working. Indians continue to seek alternatives to smoking, but they’re forced back to smoking or into the black market with unregulated vaping products. It’s a terrible public health predicament for the people of the populous sub-continent,” says Ms Loucas.
The latest Povaddo survey confirms a huge push for India’s government to instead adopt a Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) approach. Conducted from 30 August to 7 September 2021, the survey involved 2,000 respondents throughout India – all current and former legal-age smoke-free users.
Nearly nine out of 10 respondents – or 86% – believe products like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products are a better alternative to cigarettes. Further, 87% believe alternative products like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products should be just as accessible to adult smokers as regular cigarettes.
Such equal access could lead to fewer smokers. Of current cigarette or other tobacco product users, 92% say they would consider switching to a smoke-free alternative product if it were legal, met quality and safety standards, and were conveniently available.
A staggering 95% of respondents believe the government should come up with new ways to reduce the harm caused by smoking cigarettes, with 81% of current and former users of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products believing the government should remove the ban on these products.
The survey also confirmed the ban’s total ineffectiveness. Following India’s 2019 prohibition of safer smoke-free products, most users didn’t stop using the products. In fact, 85% of all respondents reported being smoke-free users both before and after the ban. Dual users are also prolific in India with 92% of current smoke-free product users also using cigarettes.
“Ignoring the evidence, India’s government adopted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) poisoned anti-vaping advice, and now its people are paying a huge price. In the past two years, Indians have been forced to either return to deadly smoking, consume unregulated street vapes, or both! While such outcomes were sadly predictable, it’s not too late. We’re calling on India’s government to closely review this survey’s extensive findings and repeal its failed vaping ban,” she says.
CAPHRA says India leads the pack in Asia Pacific on how to do THR health policies badly, with Thailand, Australia, and Hong Kong not far behind.
This comes despite India being home to 12% of the world’s smokers. Approximately 34.6% of adult Indians are smokers, with nearly 1.35 million Indians dying every year from smoking-related illnesses.
“Despite India’s appalling track record on smoking, it was truly outrageous the WHO gave India’s Health Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan, a special award this year for banning considerably less harmful e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products,” says Heneage Mitchell, Founding Director of Fact Asia.
“Both the WHO and India’s government claim they’ve done so well controlling tobacco consumption, but it’s now crystal-clear things have only got worse since the vaping ban. We are proud to have shone some light on India’s epic failure by commissioning this large independent survey,” says Mr Mitchell.
Nancy Loucas: “Rather than blindly following the WHO’s corrupted and unqualified advice, India’s government should introduce progressive risk-proportionate vaping legislation such as New Zealand adopted last year, and Filipino Senators are considering now. That’s how you reduce smoking-related illnesses and deaths. Bans don’t work and now we have more proof.
“Not only has India’s government succumbed to the WHO’s lies, but it has allowed the likes of American billionaire Michael Bloomberg to influence its domestic health policies. India didn’t so fight hard for its independence in 1947 to now stand back and have foreign entities meddle with its government and people,” says Ms Loucas.
Latest research proving anti-tobacco billionaire foundations have funnelled millions into Asia Pacific NGOs to lobby governments to ban vaping, and discredit vaping advocates, has received worldwide press attention. To view the full findings and money trails, open pdf file here.
CAPHRA is calling on those who’ve quit cigarettes through smoke-free nicotine alternatives to tell their story on www.righttovape.org. The site features more than 14,500 testimonials,
Consumer groups in the Asia Pacific region have also launched a petition at change.org/v4v-petition. It urges the WHO to respect consumer rights and to stop demonizing THR options ahead of the Ninth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in November.
For a free digital media repository on tobacco harm reduction in Asia Pacific – including media releases, images and graphics – please visit https://apthrmedia.org