New Delhi, March 20, 2020:
The vast majority of adult vapers (71.3%) who participated in a first-of-its-kind survey in India used e-cigarettes to quit (30%) or cut down (41.3%). Similar results were observed in users of smokeless tobacco (SLT). The majority (79%) believe that electronic cigarettes are less harmful than combustible cigarettes. Survey participants reported minimal side effects (cough, headache, dry mouth / throat) and some health benefits (better overall health, breathing, smell, and taste) after they started vaping.
A total of 3,000 vapers 18 years of age and older than eight from India’s largest metropolitan cities participated in the interview-based survey, which aimed to obtain data on the characteristics and tobacco consumption profile of adult vapers in the India. About 81% of the respondents were men and 19% women, with an average age of 29 years. The majority (80%) were first exposed to nicotine through the consumption of combustible cigarettes, the use of SLT, or both.
“Our findings highlight the potential of electronic cigarettes to be an additional option for tobacco control,” wrote Dr. Konstantinos E. Farsalinos, one of the scientists who conducted the survey. The survey results were published March 30 in the Harm Reduction Journal.
India’s e-cigarette ban hurts smokers who have switched to vaping
According to the authors, the survey results may be especially relevant for countries such as India, which have a high tobacco-related health burden, a complex tobacco landscape, and inadequate infrastructure and resources to help SLT smokers and users. to quit smoking. They described India’s ban on e-cigarettes as a “missed opportunity” and urged the country’s public health authorities to “encourage further research and consider appropriate modifications to the regulatory framework if the findings support such a need.”
Commenting on the electronic cigarette ban, the study authors wrote: “To benefit public health, a balance is needed between encouraging smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit smoking with approved methods of using electronic cigarettes to help them quit smoking and avoid its use by non-smokers. ”
The Government of India banned the import, manufacture, sale, advertising, storage and distribution of electronic cigarettes in September 2019. Advocates of tobacco harm reduction warn that India’s ban on electronic cigarettes hurts smokers They have switched to vaping and will push them back to smoking fuel cigarettes. They stressed that India’s vaping ban is an approach to tobacco control that other governments should not imitate.
India represents a complex public health challenge
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are more than 120 million smokers in India, representing almost 12% of the 1.1 billion smokers worldwide. In the journal article, the study authors noted that a significantly higher proportion of the Indian population smokes tobacco in its local forms (eg, bidis, hookah, chilam, shisha, hookahs); Chew SLT in various forms, such as khaini, zarda, gutkha, and paan masala in combination with or without betel nut; or combine the two (mixed users). They cited data from the 2016-2017 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), which shows that India has the second largest tobacco use population in the world, estimated at over 267 million, which includes at least 100 million smokers and more than 199 million SLT users. While smoking tobacco in different forms, including cigarettes, is found predominantly among Indian men, SLT use is also widespread among Indian women.
Therefore, India represents a complex public health challenge. Tobacco-related deaths in India are estimated to exceed 1 million a year and are projected to increase to 1.5 million by 2020, ”the study authors wrote. They noted that smoking-related diseases such as heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are prevalent in India. Therefore, the reduction in the prevalence of tobacco consumption and other products harmful to tobacco will have a substantial impact on public health in the country. They also cited GATS data showing that India has the second lowest dropout rate among GATS countries surveyed in late 2017.
“India’s tobacco control program must be strengthened by including additional aids to quit smoking,” the study authors wrote. “Our study suggests that there is a potential for e-cigarettes to replace tobacco use and SLT among tobacco users in India.”
To read the full article in the Harm Reduction Journal, visit https://harmreductionjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12954-020-00362-7