The NNA is a registered UK charity staffed by consumer volunteers, formed to increase understanding about the benefits of “new” risk-reduced nicotine products and a better recognition of long-term recreational use of nicotine as a powerful incentive for smoking cessation. It has noted:
- The Indian government has passed a law banning e-cigarettes, but it excludes personal consumption
- The Indian Civil Aviation Ministry has misunderstood the law and is seizing and destroying the property of unsuspecting UK visitors
- Thousands of UK citizens potentially affected; the NNA has asked the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to update travel advice
The NNA states: “UK visitors to India who use e-cigarettes to improve their health on the advice of British health organisations are having their devices confiscated at airports.”
The NNA says it has become aware of five travellers who have suffered hard-line and unsanctioned action, but those affected could stretch to tens of thousands more UK citizens who have chosen vaping as a way of stopping smoking.
Regular UK traveller to Goa, Fiona Hodge, reported that UK vapers are having their property confiscated both on the way in and out of India. “I had to leave £60 worth of my property behind despite possession of e-cigarettes not being an offence under the law. UK tourists are being harassed at airports, which will surely be a threat to India’s tourism industry. I certainly won’t be going back if the attitude towards vapers carries the hallmark of being designed specifically to maintain, and even increase, the number of smokers in India.”
The NNA says it opposes policies which prohibit the use of safer nicotine products, but if countries pursue such misguided legislation, they should enforce it appropriately and properly inform UK citizens before they travel.
“E-cigarettes are a proven safer alternative to smoking and the UK boasts 1.9 million former smokers who have converted from smoking to exclusively vaping instead. Confiscating products which have a successful track record of diverting smokers away from combustible tobacco is crazy. Their only other option in India is combustible cigarettes, and the Indian Government owns 28% of one of the country’s biggest tobacco companies,” said NNA Chair Martin Cullip.
“Health groups in the UK, including the NHS, rightly support tobacco harm reduction. Public Health England also backs vaping and the Royal College of Physicians urges wide promotion of e-cigarettes to reassure and encourage smokers to use them, as does the government’s own Tobacco Control Plan. The Government’s Science and Technology Committee recommended wider acceptance of vaping as an option to switch from smoking in August 2018.”
“India welcomes 850,000 visitors from the UK each year and current statistics dictate that around 6 per cent of those will be vapers. That is around 50,000 who could be affected simply for following advice to switch to e-cigarettes on the advice of public health authorities in this country.”
“It is not up to the UK to dictate how India chooses to treat e-cigarettes”, said Cullip. “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 suggests that 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. [link]
- The NNA letter – [link]
- Law banning e-cigarettes but excluding personal use – [link]
- Action on Smoking and Health survey, September 2019 – [link]
- Govt has banned vapes, but owns 28% of ITC – India’s biggest cigarette maker – [link]
- Public Health England: “E-cigarettes aren’t completely risk free but carry a fraction of the risk of smoking and are helping thousands of smokers to quit and stay smokefree” – [link]
- Royal College of Physicians: “Promote e-cigarettes widely as substitute for smoking” – [link]
- UK Tobacco Control Plan: “Backing evidence-based innovations to support quitting” (page 5) – [link]
- UK Government Science and Technology Committee report, August 2018 – [link]
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office most recent British Behaviour report – [link]