Recently in the news we have had an explosion of vaping related stories that sadly have not been positive for the industry. We recently focused on one of the biggest stories in the USA but now I want to focus on another big story, or is it? The vaping ban in India.
India, with a population of about 1.3 billion have recently moved to ban vaping in the country outright. Well not exactly outright, just the importation, manufacturing and selling of vaping products, leaving the industry dead in its tracks, after all, how can you vape if you can’t buy it or order it, let alone make one? The story came via the financial minister Nirmala Sitharaman who said ‘it is in the public interest to ensure vaping doesn’t become an “epidemic” among young people’. It is these words that echo what America had had recently when moving to ban vaping in a number of different forms universally, the youth vaping epidemic. It is a pretty big news story right? Vaping banned to potentially 1.3 billion people in the world?
Well, not quite. This is where hopefully I can step in and bring an alternative view on the story and hopefully offer you a renewed perspective on what India banning vaping actually means for the industry. Social media talk grew in the aftermath of the story breaking with figures such as 46 million vapers in India banned from vaping, coming from a popular Youtube channel as its source. However the figures were off and as a result, mis information has spread around the social media networks creating a story that, well, just isn’t there. So join me as we explore exactly why vaping banned in India isn’t the big story it was made out to be
India Ban was coming before America
The best place to start here is the rumour that India were following America in banning vaping, they weren’t by a long shot, and this outright ban was muted well before the peculiar outbreak of vaping illnesses in America. Going back to 22nd August they had said they were planning on a ban, which super-cedes America by around 3 weeks. Way back then, the story was Health officials are proposing jail terms of up to three years, with a penalty of up to 500,000 rupees ($7,000), for repeat offenders against the new rules, according to a draft of the executive order.First-time offenders would face a prison term of up to one year and a fine of 100,000 rupees. This was planned to be delivered by an emergency measure, despite the lack of an epidemic as previously announced.
So all is well and good with that, no surprise the plan was put into effect, but the bigger picture of the why is where it will hopefully make sense.
Vaping was never legal in India
The vaping industry had never actually been seen as a legitimate business in India, with varying levels of that being true. The Indian Government had however never officially passed E-Cigarettes as a legal business since they started to grow in popularity and this is where the story starts to get interesting. The states of Bihar, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and the union territory of Chandigarh have declared e-cigarettes as an unapproved drug under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules, 1945, and can prosecute sellers under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules, 1945. So vaping was actually banned in large parts of the country before this nationwide ban, with at least one person in 2017 sent to prison. There were however E-liquid companies operating within India and business had to be done with a little bit of cloak and dagger as they were technically illegal still to sell.
India is a tobacco country
Now the story is starting to make sense. 86% of the tax revenue in India is provided by tobacco products, that stat alone is shocking enough (but there are more stats coming your way). India’s biggest, or one of the biggest exports in the world is…. yes you guessed it, Tobacco. They account for 6% of the value market share in USA alone and with quantities and quality improving, they could increase this number year on year going forward, they already have 6% of a billion dollar market. Diving deeper again, FCV tobacco is exported by a massive 70% crop globally from India themselves. So India as a country both export massive amounts of tobacco and generate massive amounts of tax revenue from people buying tobacco in the country. Still not enough for you? Well let’s break it down even more.
Now onto the big one, the actual statistics of India. It is estimated that around 120 million people smoke in India, or to put that into a bigger picture, that is 12% of the global smokers rate in one country alone. Another figure from an Indian news source puts that figure at around 267 million tobacco users in the country. In terms of the population, that is 10-20% give or take of the population that smoke. Now on average number of deaths each year and that is around 900,000, EVERY YEAR. That is a crazy amount of deaths, with figures up to 10 million deaths coming from research papers about the subject. Pick a number between the two and that is still around 1-3% of the smoking population dying every single year. So for an industry to keep pulling people in , more people must be taking up smoking as another dies from it.
Now we can take a look at the figures of population smoking and this is where it starts to get scary. At least 70% of the male population smoke, a figure at least put at around 108 million. Female adult smokers are put at around 10-15% , which leaves around 15% of smokers unaccounted for……children. So going back to the vaping epidemic that the financial minister talked about, truth is, there must be more under age smokers in India than anywhere else in the world, without pulling up all the statistics, certainly one of the biggest sources.
In fact the known vaping percentages is not really known for a fact. The numbers suggest however that around 3 million people vaped which give or take is around 0.23% of the population that vaped anyway. At a figure that low, the industry never really existed, let alone legitimised by the government themselves.
To sum up
India banning vaping is not a big deal for vapers around the world, it really isn’t. Much has been made of the story in recent weeks online but the fact is (and the figures) is that India banning vaping is a mere tear drop in the Ocean when it comes to saving lives. For the most part, Indians never adopted E-Cigarettes as a method to quit, for such a massive amount of smokers, you would expect to see much larger numbers being touted about. The fact is, there really isn’t any fuss being made from the country about this, they don’t care. When a country is dependant on tobacco as much as India, and the people widely adopt smoking as a way of life, then vaping never stood a chance there.
The American ban may well be a significant story, India however not so much.