CAPHRA is a regional alliance of consumer tobacco harm reduction advocacy organisations. Its mission is to educate, advocate and represent the right of adult alternative nicotine consumers to access and use of products that reduce harm from tobacco use.
Loucas’ comment follows 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,” adds 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 continued: “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.”