The Indian government has just introduced a complete ban on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems or ENDS. The ordinance, approved by the Union Cabinet, details a ban on nine forms of vape and e-cigarette related activities, including production, manufacturing, transport, sale, distribution, storage, advertising and import and export. This decisive action follows global backlash towards the vaping industry, with recent reports and worrying statistics emerging from the United States of America.
According to the US Surgeon General’s 2016’s Report, e-cigarette use amongst high-school students has increased by over 900%. Statistics reflected in the National Youth Tobacco Survey that same year demonstrated an astounding 1.7 million high school students and about 500,000 middle-school students who admitted to using e-cigarettes in the last 30 days. As it stands today, one out of every five teenagers in America vapes on a regular basis- numbers reaching almost epidemic proportions.
India in Vapours
In the year 2017, market research firm Euromonitor International valued India’s vape and e-cigarette market at approximately $15.6 million dollars, with a projected growth of about 60% annually until the year 2022. While the Indian e-cigarette market is dominated by international brands, companies of Indian origin, including ITC and Godfrey Phillips, have recently entered the market in an attempt to tap into the rapid rise in demand amongst the Indian youth.
The concern surrounding vaping and e-cigarettes is that thus far, they have evaded government health and safety regulations almost entirely. In a press conference concerning the ban, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stresses that ENDS were initially marketed as tools to aid in the weaning of tobacco-smoking habits, but have gained popularity amongst the Indian youth as something of a style statement. This means that even casual smokers and those that have never indulged in tobacco and nicotine use before will not object to trying an e-cigarette.
For all of their concern over the health of our youth, the Indian government still owns about a 28% stake in ITC, a company which accounts for an approximated 85% of the cigarette market in our country. Dr. Shekhar Sanyal from the Goa-based National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication, a prominent advocate for a county-wide ban on tobacco, said in a statement with Economic Times, “You can’t ban tobacco products in India because they generate a lot of employment. E-cigarette isn’t a big industry today but it has the potential since it is being promoted as a healthier alternative to cigarettes. My main worry is that it will attract children and they will get addicted to it.” He further adds that the act of regular vaping needs to be studied and scrutinized for at least an additional 20 years before it can be conclusively regarded as safe.
Fads and Fiction: A Cause that turned into a Business
Unlike the tobacco industry, the appeal of e-cigarettes and vaping relies heavily on the novelty of it all. Grape Mint, Watermelon, Lemon, Vanilla Ice Cream, Raspberry, and Cookies and Cream, are just some of the more popular flavours that one might find, condensed in the form of a golden liquid concealed within a friend’s savvy little vape-stick. The sheer variety of tempting flavours advertised by the vape community, coupled with a low nicotine content that affords vaping an almost health-forward image, has created a global fad surrounding both the products and industry.
Besides appealing to a variety of palates, vaping has also gained traction in the online spectrum for what is referred to as “vape tricks”. Manipulating the vapour released from ENDS devices is the modern-youth equivalent of blowing smoke-rings over a glass of scotch, with an abundance of literature available online to aid one in becoming what is known in popular culture as a “Vape God”.
Tricks include, but are not limited to, Ghost Hits, Waterfalls, Tornados, The Jellyfish and The Dragon. As visually appealing as some of these tricks may be to onlookers and spectators, they account for a large part of the global culture of vaping being considered fashionable.
The popularity of vaping stems from the idea that vapes and e-cigarettes are more affordable, come in a variety of flavour options, are easier to conceal, do not interfere with the air-quality of enclosed spaces and are a safer and healthier alternative to traditional cigarette smoking, but how much of this is true?
The culture of e-cigarettes and vaping is still regarded as a new and relatively unfamiliar concept, yet to be vetted by medical and scientific institutions for health and safety implications. There has been a marked increase in reports from around the globe, that talk of people admitted to hospitals and intensive care for vaping-related complications including the whimsically named but life-altering, “popcorn-lungs”, or bronchiolitis obliterans in medical terms. So named for its occurrence amongst popcorn factory employees that worked with diacetyl flavouring, popcorn lung is a condition that damages the lung’s smallest airways, leaving one coughing and short of breath. Diacetyl is also used in the flavouring process of vape juices and is banned in Europe for its adverse consequences on health.
Other e-cigarette related health complications include mouth problems and gum disease, addiction to nicotine, impaired brain development, and the potential for drug experimentation by means of hashish oil, Marijuana and CBD infused liquids, wax and other cannabis products.
Another factor that endangers habitual users of vapes and e-cigarettes is the culture of DIY vape juices. While the smoking appliances themselves are cost-effective, the exorbitant prices of designer vape juice can quickly burn a hole in the pockets of vape-enthusiasts. To combat this, many vapers turn to mixing their own juices. When done correctly, DIY juice-making saves on time and money and may result in a rise of palatable, personalised signature flavours, but the process can be more dangerous than you imagine.
In large doses, Nicotine is poison, and concentrates cannot be allowed to make direct contact with the skin. Permanent blindness can result from contact of the liquid concentrate with the eye. A rookie mistake in mixing comes in the form of using too much nicotine or using the wrong ingredients like food flavourings, which are not meant to be used in this fashion. At-home mixes also need steeping for a while before they are safe for use. If you are considering experimenting with making vape juice, remember this: you are handling potent chemicals and concentrates that may be dangerous to your health and that of the people around you. Do your research, employ the use of lab safety equipment like gloves and goggles, and make safe decisions for your body.
As stated by the leader of the consumer body Association of Vapers in India (AVI) in conversation with Economic Times, “Bans don’t work in India. It will only slow the uptake and damage the perception”. While this may be true, one’s health reflects one’s choices. So, make more informed choices, put your health first, and never compromise on quality.
Do you agree with the decisions made by the Indian government? Let us know!