Ban Set To Cut Down On Vaping Boosts Black Market Instead
After passing a complete prohibition on all vapor products, many Indian public health officials believed they would successfully cut down on the rate of teenage vaping throughout the country. Instead, many have found procuring vapor products to be easier than ever, as long as they’re not looking for an international brand such as Juul.
India became one of the first countries to pass prohibition on all vapor products towards the end of last year. Yet in the face of this unprecedented prohibitive policy, many are finding it to be quite easy to still get vapor products, as long as you’re not looking for a regulated major brand.
The ban imposed penalties for those caught vaping, as well as on the sale and possession of vapor products. Penalties range from fines starting at a staggering 100,000 Rupees (or ~$1300USD) or up to a year in prison.
Despite these strict measures, people are readily able to purchase vapor products from any paan shop. Even if they have difficulty doing that, there’s nothing stopping them from going online and having them shipped directly to their door.
Critics of the ban believe it only bolstered black markets, rather than properly preventing vaping. They note that a regulated market would be able to better protect against youth vaping by employing age and other checks to prevent purchase.
In September 2019, the Indian government passed a sweeping ban on all vapor products following concerns over youth access and a series of lung injuries being misattributed to nicotine vaping. With the ban came stiff penalties for the sale, possession, and usage of vapor products, ranging from fines starting at 100,000 Rupees (or roughly ~$1300USD) all the way up to a year in prison for lack of compliance.
Nearly nine months after the ban has been implemented, many in the country are starting to question exactly what it has accomplished so far. While formal, regulated companies such as Juul or Vape have been forced out of regulated markets, a burgeoning black market has been bolstered by the prohibition, importing unregulated products from companies in China. These products are often cheaper for the end-user due to a lack of quality control and standards.
“I have been in the business for three years now. The only thing that the ban has changed is branded products are out of the market. I can still sell Chinese products which I usually buy from a black market in Mumbai.” said an Indian 23-year-old who sells his illegal products through Instagram, speaking to reporters under the condition of anonymity.
Many countries that have banned vapor products and dismantled their regulated industries have seen unregulated black markets take hold. Critics of the ban believe it removes basic quality standards to protect consumers, and allow teens even easier access to vapor products through black markets that readily want money and don’t check identification.
“It is difficult to enforce regulations as nicotine is available in all other forms. Formal players making e-cigarettes are exiting the market. Once the black market industry gains a footer, it will be impossible to get control over it. The government missed a golden opportunity to regulate these products,” said Samrat Chowdhery, of Association of Vapers India. He believes a safe and regulated marketplace is the best way to protect the public at large.
Harm reduction experts and public health scholars have long-cautioned against the prohibitive policies and restrictive regulations currently impacting the industry, not only for their obvious economic impact but for their major public health ramifications as well. In an article published in the journal Science, a group of respected public health experts banded together to speak out against prohibitive policies and restrictive regulations targeting vaping, noting there is currently no evidence that vaping is harmful, and that these policies may force smokers back toward tobacco or, as demonstrated, the black market.
Despite claims being parroted by lawmakers and anti-vaping activists, research from the NYU School of Global Public Health found that most teens don’t actually vape at all. The study, published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, found that over 85% of teens don’t vape and that even the few that do are not habitual users.
An extensive collection of scientific research and academic review has affirmed vaping’s value as the most effective smoking cessation aid available. For example, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that vaping was more effective than other nicotine-replacement therapies in helping adults quit and remain off of tobacco.
Not only has vaping been repeatedly demonstrated as an effective smoking cessation aid, but research has also noted its value as a reduced harm alternative to tobacco as well. In fact, research from Public Health England and the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center found that vaping is actually 95% and 93% safer than smoking, respectively.
An unregulated black market is both a major economic and public health hazard. In addition to this untaxed revenue often going to organized criminals, a lack of quality control places users at risk while the teens the ban was supposed to stop from vaping are still readily able to purchase vapor products.
Indian vapers must band together to speak out against these prohibitive policies, not only for the outrageous penalties levied against those concerned for their health but for the wider economic and public health ramifications it has had to date. Organized civic action and engagement represents one of the greatest opportunities for affecting actual change against these restrictive regulations.
What are your thoughts regarding the current progress of India’s vaping ban? Do you believe it has helped to curb youth usage or has it only bolstered black markets instead? We would love to know what you think in the comments below. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to receive all the latest and greatest vaping news and reviews.
(Image Credit – Pixabay – https://pixabay.com/images/id-2158447/ )