Image credit : Samrat Chowdhery

Vaping Post: Now we are in 2017, what do you retain from the year 2016?

Samrat Chowdhery: 2016 was a defining year for vaping in India, for both good and bad reasons. The unfortunate part was the flurry of bans and regulations by state governments, which created fear in the vaping community and hesitation among vendors about investing and expanding in an uncertain business climate. 

“Most business owners have adopted a wait-and-watch approach” -S. Chowdhery
The FCTC COP7 held in New Delhi in November added to these woes, with India allegedly joining the band of South Asian countries to call for an outright ban on ENDS. While there is no substantiation India indeed championed a vaping ban since the discussions were held in private, the rumours have further depressed the market. Most business owners have adopted a wait-and-watch approach, though the expectation that a national policy restricting ENDS would be promulgated soon hasn’t happened yet, so there is hope.

“(…) number of e-juice makers has shot up, giving vapers more choice” -S. Chowdhery
On the bright side, the number of smokers switching to vaping swelled, and the community became more organised. There is now a robust ecosystem of buyers and sellers, and products are more widely available at better pricing, which is likely to further fuel growth. The number of e-juice makers has shot up, giving vapers more choice. 

Vaping Post: What is currently happening in India? 

Samrat Chowdhery: India is the third largest producer of tobacco, the industry employing millions of people. The central government is a stakeholder in the country’s largest tobacco manufacturing company, ITC. Tobacco taxes here are much lower than what is prescribed by WHO, with the most smoked product, bidis, attracting negligible tax. 

These factors contribute to the resistance vaping is facing, though there is realisation among vapers and vendors that something needs to be done about the increase in bans and misinformation. 

There is an ongoing effort to form Association of Vapers – India (AVI), which will lead this intervention.    

Vaping Post: What would be your expectations for this year?

“I expect vaping to take off in an even bigger way in 2017” -S. Chowdhery
Samrat Chowdhery: A public interest litigation (PIL) has been drafted to challenge the ENDS ban in Karnataka state, which will be filed sometime in February. I hope we can persuade the court to grant a stay, which will allow us to legally pursue the issue in other states. A campaign to raise funds for the legal fees is being discussed.

I expect vaping to take off in an even bigger way in 2017 and awareness about this safer alternative percolating from metros to smaller towns, which will be the new growth centres.

Manufacturing of vaping gear is non-existent in the country. I expect it to begin in modest ways this year. The e-juice makers may be able to leverage their proximity to the source of nicotine extraction and begin exporting their products.