Indian authorities try to destroy vaping before they host the World Health Organisation's COP7 Conference

Indian authorities try to destroy vaping before they host the World Health Organisation's COP7 Conference

“E-cigarettes can help eliminate smoking in 30 years: Research”, says the headline at the top of the page on the website of The Indian Express. The research it cites is from the Reason Foundation - something I wrote about earlier this week. The article goes on to say:

‘In India, the authors estimated that “within a few years perhaps 10 per cent of smokers could switch to vaping. If that happened, close to 11 million people would experience a multitude of benefits, including a substantial reduction in the risk of death from tobacco-related diseases.”'

I mention this article because the Indian Government is hostile towards vaping and vapers. A minority of Indian states ban import, distribution and sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems. E-cigarettes are regarded as unapproved drugs and the penalty of vaping is very severe. Take this case of a Punjab man who faces three years behind bars for vaping and allegedly selling vaping products. Vini Mahajan, Punjab’s principal health secretary of the state’s Family Welfare Department, said:

“Punjab, with this conviction, has show the way to the entire country to end the nicotine-delivery devices sold in the form of e-cigarettes.”

Clearly he hasn’t read any reports recently from Public Health England or the UK’s Royal College of Physicians!

Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) may not approve of the draconian punishment meted out in Punjab for the “crime” of vaping, the rest of Mahajan’s words could have come straight out the mouth of one of WHO’s spokespersons. And they will be off to India - Delhi, to be precise - in November for the COP7 conference where item 5.5 on the agenda is “Control and prevention of globally emerging products.” Included in that item is “Electronic nicotine delivery systems and electronic non-nicotine delivery systems: report by WHO.” (The full report it refers to can be found here)

India is the second largest tobacco producer in the world. Just think of those tax rupees, and whilst you are thinking about them you may get the probable reason the Indian authorities want to destroy vaping. As for WHO, I gave my answer in a previous post:

“After decades of tobacco harm reduction policies by international organisations and governments, it was the free market that came up with the solution. Vaping works - ask the millions of people around the world who have given up smoking or have substantially reduced the amount they smoke because they vape. WHO just can't stand that and is determined that we should all give up nicotine in all forms and through attempted draconian measures, is determined to make sure vaping fails.

“That says a lot about its mindset. It would rather people continue to smoke than admit the free market was more effective in tobacco harm reduction than it was. It's about saving face, not saving lives.”

What a spectacle it will be in Delhi this November. The great and the (not so) good will stay in the best hotels. No doubt they will be wined and dined at no cost to themselves whilst they tell us how to lead our lives. In the meantime, a small business owner in Punjab will either still be waiting to find out if his appeal has been successful, or will be in prison for the crime of vaping. 

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  • commented 2016-08-25 23:33:20 +0100
    With its high number of smokers, of whom a million die a year, and adoption of vaping being highest among low-income groups, one would have imagined India would have welcomed the vaping alternative. But, as always, money and politics have trumped public health.

    On one hand, the government doesn’t even tax the country’s most smoked and unhealthiest product, the bidis (a kind of unfiltered rolled tobacco leaf), in direct contravention of WHO guidelines, while on the other it is surprisingly gung-ho about banning the safest alternative. And if that isn’t bad enough, it also holds a whopping 32.1% stake in ITC, the country’s largest tobacco manufacturer.

    The only direction this duplicity points to is that the government is heavily dependent on tobacco revenue and the tobacco lobby – which employs 50 million people, a huge chunk of whom are farmers, a sector no one messes with here – is driving the agenda.

    And WHO is part of this sham. Why isn’t it goading India into taxing bidis if it cares so much about preventive measures? Why isn’t it asking the goverment to disinvest its shares in ITC? Just one holding of 11.2% is worth $6.9bn! Imagine how much prevention activity it could undertake with that kind of money.