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Indians call for e-cig action

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Smokers in India are calling for action to make e-cigarettes more widely available and regulated properly.

In a first-of-its-kind survey of adult smokers in India, regional consumer advocacy group factasia.org has found that most smokers (66 percent) see e-cigarettes as a “positive alternative” to tobacco products. Even more – 69 percent – would consider switching to e-cigarettes “if they were legal, met quality and safety standards, and were conveniently available”.

The survey was conducted by Ipsos to gauge consumers’ views on safer alternatives to conventional cigarettes, such as e-cigarettes that contain nicotine – products that do not burn tobacco and therefore do not produce the potentially dangerous particulates, tar and smoke found with cigarettes.

Eminent international public health and tobacco control experts encourage use of e-cigarettes as a far less harmful alternative for smokers who either find it difficult to quit or who enjoy their nicotine.

Few smokers in India have tried them although more than a third (36 percent) express some level of familiarity with them. But a large majority (80 percent) say they should have a right to access information about less harmful products, while more than three-quarters agree that: “Through tax and regulatory policies, the government should encourage adult smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives to cigarettes and ensure they are not used by youth.”

Smokers surveyed also said it would be wrong for the authorities to “prevent or delay the introduction of less harmful alternatives to cigarettes” (73 percent).

factasia carried out the survey “in order to gain a better understanding of Asian consumers’ demand for less harmful alternatives to tobacco,” said Heneage Mitchell, co-founder of factasia.org.

E-cigarettes are described as “more than 95 percent safer than smoking” and “no more harmful than coffee” by top global public health experts. In the UK, for example, their use is “encouraged” by Public Health England, which recently reported e-cigarettes have become the most popular aid to quitting at the same time as successful attempts to quit have reached an all-time high.

factasia.org recommends full retail availability of appropriately regulated (for product quality and safety) e-cigarettes, with age-of-sale restrictions to keep them away from youth, although evidence from countries where e-cigarettes are widely used shows the youth take-up is no higher than youth smoking incidence.

“There is a clear need for action in India to regularise 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,” said Mr Mitchell. “The government here has a great opportunity to ensure there is no repeat of the situation that has arisen with conventional tobacco products.”

Vaping should be restricted to adults, said Mr Mitchell. “But e-cigarettes are here to stay and consumers deserve the protection of regulation and standards that they expect in other product sectors. Our survey shows they are calling for positive government action.”

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