New Delhi: Smokers have long struggled to quit, with most finding it difficult to kick the butt despite numerous attempts. E-cigarette users across the globe who have managed to win their personal battles against smoking by marking May 30 as the World Vape Day. Although commercial activity is banned, the use of e-cigarettes is not prohibited in India.
At an online webinar organized by Association of Vapers India (AVI), which represents the interests of over a million e-cigarette users in the country, its director Jagannath Sarangapani said, “E-cigarettes are fast replacing smoking, as smokers who have been unable to quit by others means realise that it is a much less harmful alternative.”
The webinar participants included lawmakers, policy experts, doctors, legal counsel and consumers concerned with tobacco harm reduction as a public health strategy.
Explaining his reasons for supporting regulation of e-cigarettes instead of a ban, former MP and head of Congress’ research wing, Prof Rajeev Gowda, said, “We need to look at the risk tradeoffs and prohibition often results in an underground economy. I know how difficult it is to give up smoking and I had urged the government during the Rajya Sabha debate to consider the overall health cost reduction if more people could engage with nicotine while not engaging with smoke, tar and all the harms associated with smoking.”
Dr Kiran Melkote, spokesperson for Association of Harm Reduction Education & Research (AHRER), a medical body focused on risk reduction strategies, said, “Vaping, Swedish snus and nicotine pouches should be an integral part of tobacco control approaches. These are at heart inseparable from nicotine replacement therapy and should be recognised for what they actually are – a better way of nicotine replacement.”
Author and novelist Lavanya Lakshminarayan, who was forced back to smoking after the 2019 ban, said women who smoke are subject to higher degree to stigma than men. “Vaping is less intrusive, you don’t smell like an ashtray, which helped me reduce this unwanted attention and it also made me feel a lot healthier. After the ban, however, continuing to vape has become difficult because of the uncertainty in dealing with the black market.”
In addition to the webinar, AVI sent a letter to MPs requesting that the ban be revoked as the reasons provided for it – increased teen use and vaping deaths in the US – no longer hold. Teen vaping fell sharply last year suggesting it was a fad than sustained addiction, while the deaths have been found to be linked to illegal cannabis and not nicotine vaping.
Vapers also took to Twitter in large numbers with the hashtag ‘EndVapeBan’ to share their success stories and sensitise lawmakers, the media and the public to the benefits of helping current smokers switch to less harmful alternatives.