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The survey, an Indian first, was conducted on adult smokers by IPSOS on behalf of the non-profit organisation, FactAsia.org. Four major cities in India (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai) have been chosen for a total number of 813 people.

  • 80% Indian smokers reported they should have a right to access information about less harmful products.
  • 76% agree the Government should be encouraging them to switch to less harmful products by easing fiscal and regulatory policies.
  • 73% also agree that it would be wrong for the Government to prevent or delay the introduction of less harmful alternatives.
  • 69% Indian smokers would consider switching to e-cigarettes “if they were legal, met quality and safety standards, and were conveniently available”.

36% Indian smokers declared they were familiar with e-cigarettes and some of them would expect the government to ease the law on vaping, especially bans that are flourishing in the country.

India, a tobacco producer and consumer

(Source www.who.int)
(Source www.who.int)

Tobacco consumers, according to the WHO’s figures (last GATS survey in 2009-2010) represent almost one out of two males and one out of three people aged 15 and above in the country. They are potentially the second larger pool of tobacco consumers in the world, after Chinese people.

 But India is also currently the 2nd largest producer and exporter of tobacco. The tobacco industry represents about 100,000 registered farmers and 7 research centres supported by the government which has set up Tobacco Board to increase exports of Indian tobacco.

Smokers and tobacco producers, two sides of the same coin

A coin that goes into the government’s pocket since vaping is drastically regulated in many State of the country and, in this surrent situation, does not constitute a major threat to a local economy based on tobacco. The UK’s example shows that since the introduction of the e-cigarette on the market, sales of tobacco have decreased, turing it to a true issue for the Big Tobacco industry.

FactAsia.org calls Indian smokers for action

Heneage Mitchell, FactAsia Managing director and co-founder, said in a press release  that “There is a clear need for action in India to regularize the industry and to establish quality standards, tax the products rationally and ensure they are made available only to adults, like many other consumer items“, he adds, “The government has a great opportunity to ensure there is no repeat of the situation that has arisen with conventional tobacco products“.

The organization officially calls smokers to action in order to release pressure on e-cigarettes since many states in the country are banning vaping products. Indian health officials clearly expressed their concerns on vaping while their counterpart in England have described e-cigarettes as “more than 95 per cent safer than smoking” and a far less harmful alternative to smoking for those who can’t or don’t want to stop.

FactAsia.org is is an independent consumer advocacy whose goal is to ensure all information presented – in any form – “is factual, rational and supported (wherever appropriate) by verifiable data”, reads their website.

The LinkedIn page of its Managing Director reads that the organization “seeks a reasoned and informed debate on the rights of smokers to enjoy their chosen habit and the products they have bought, which contribute mightily to the tax take of almost every country on earth“. The description further reads that the organization does “NOT represent the views of the tobacco industry. We believe in the right of smokers to enjoy their smoking (within reason and with appropriate – but reasonable – regulation. We represent the consumer, not the tobacco industry.

Factasia.org involve vapers while PMI approach vendors

Despite this statement, the (financial) supporters that appear in the list are in direct link with the tobacco industry. Among them we find:

Recently, independent vendors of e-cigarette in India reported having been approached by PMI that offered them to fund a legal challenge against vaping bans. A manoeuvre that rose concerns among vendors about PMI’s lobbying strategy in India.

PMI’s IQOS and vaping, the same fight? – Not really

One of PMI’s current commercial strategies is to place their new potentially reduced risk product (PRRP), the iQOS, on the global market. As opposed to a personal vaporizer where liquid nicotine is vaporized, PMI’s iQOS is heating a stick mainly made of tobacco leaves to produce a tobacco-flavored vapor. Hence, it is not indecent to believe that, labelled “harm reduction product” as a classical e-cigarette, PMI’s iQOS could easily be confused with an e-cigarette in a retail shop offering both products.
With a high popularity gained over the past years, vaping is now letting new tobacco products entering the market, with big companies taking advantage of this relatively new political awareness towards tobacco harm reduction. As Robert Jackler from Standford’s University says in the documentary film Beyond the Cloud, there’s one fundamental difference between vapor products advertising from independent companies and tobacco companies. The tobacco companies never advertise their product as a cessation product.