What ban? E-cigarettes, vapes available for free to smokers in Mumbai

‘Smoking cessation tools’ – made illegal three years ago – deliver a daily dose of nicotine to Mumbaikars again

According to the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, vaping is less harmful than traditional cigarettes, but it’s “still not safe.” Photo: iStock

Whether it’s alcohol, pornography or electronic cigarettes, Indians have always managed to get around the bans.

On September 18, 2019, in what has been called “a major health and welfare initiative for the country”, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the enactment of the ban on electronic cigarettes (production, manufacture, import, export, transportation, sale, distribution, storage and advertising) Order of 2019, thus imposing a complete ban on electronic cigarettes and “vapes” throughout the country.

Upon the promulgation of this ordinance, any type of production, manufacture, import, export, transportation, sale (including online sale), distribution or advertising (including online advertising) of e-cigarettes was deemed an offense punishable by imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh or both for the first offence; and imprisonment for up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh for subsequent offence.

Storing e-cigarettes would also be punishable by imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to Rs 50,000 or both.

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Smoke Avatars

Three years later, e-cigarettes seem to have once again found their way to Mumbai’s underground markets and into the hands of Mumbaikars. Whether on the side of the road paanwaalas or in the cigarette shops in South Bombay, Crawford Market, or as far as the western suburb of Juhu, everyone is stocking up on a product that has long been marketed as a tool to help smokers reduce their consumption of traditional cigarettes. Only this time the product has a new avatar.

The new vapes that are being sold fall into the “single-use” category, which means that their batteries cannot be recharged. Most of them are made by Chinese companies. Depending on the vendor, these vapes can cost between Rs 600 and Rs 2,000 per piece, for an average of between 2,500 and 4,000 puffs.

Whether it’s e-cigarettes, vapes, or traditional cigarette sticks, the main agent in all of them is a poisonous substance called “nicotine,” which is highly addictive and known to increase blood pressure. blood pressure and adrenaline from the body, thus making a person more prone to having a heart attack. Nicotine causes cravings and leads to withdrawals if the craving is ignored.

Gen-next’s favorite

Electronic cigarettes have been marketed as a tool to help smokers reduce their tobacco consumption because they do not contain tobacco and other carcinogenic components that are the makeup of traditional cigarettes. However, they contain a high nicotine component. At the same time, due to their appealing flavors such as mint ice cream, raspberry cola, mango, peach and countless variations, e-cigarettes and vapes have managed to harness a new generation much younger, putting them on a journey of a lifetime. nicotine addiction.

“I only source flavors that have high demand…there are many flavors available in the market, but each consumer has their own favorite flavor and some flavors sell more widely than others,” said a retail vendor in Crawford Market. The Federal. “Variants that give more drags per unit have a higher price than those that give fewer puffs.”

Another Juhu-based seller said, “The minimum price I charge for these vapes is Rs 800 [2,500 puffs]. The stock I receive does not last beyond a week since the number of people buying this product has steadily increased. People want what their friends have. Plus, it’s a cheaper alternative to cigarettes.

There are also pdf files shared by sellers of electronic cigarettes on WhatsApp with their regular customers, which contain all the flavors of the week, the different brands available, the “vape of the day” special offers and also a home delivery system. .

Define electronic cigarettes

An “e-cigarette” refers to an “electronic device that heats a substance, with or without nicotine and flavorings, to create an aerosol to be inhaled. A notice issued by the Press Information Bureau of India describes it as “battery-operated devices that produce an aerosol by heating a solution containing nicotine, which is the addictive substance in combustible cigarettes.” These include all forms of electronic nicotine delivery systems, non-combustion heating products, electronic hookahs and similar devices.

“These new products have an attractive appearance and multiple flavors and their use has increased exponentially and reached epidemic proportions in developed countries, especially among young people and children,” the notification reads.

“For me, it’s ease of use,” said Rohan (name changed), 28, who has been vaping for two months. “Before, I spent Rs 350 daily to buy a pack of cigarettes, but now I buy one [disposable vapes] for anywhere between Rs 600 and Rs 900 and it lasts me most of the week. The fact that there is no smoke produced [only vapor] means I can smoke it from the comfort of my room or a vehicle without having to worry about any kind of smell. I no longer need to go downstairs to my office and into the designated smoking area to smoke a cigarette; Instead, I just take a few quick puffs on the stairs and come back to my desk to work.

Mohit (name changed), 32, said: “I discovered my first disposable vape at a well-known cigarette retail store in Crawford Market in February. Funnily enough this store has been around for over 50 years and was a place my dad used to visit regularly to buy his imported cigarettes back in the 80’s. The product was not advertised or kept out in the open…the seller told me given from a plastic box hidden somewhere in his shop. I have been a regular smoker for almost 14 years and have not completely quit traditional cigarettes…I still smoke occasionally. But the e-cigarette has become my favorite because it’s faster, tastier and, from what I understand, less harmful.

strangely addictive

However, Rohan and Mohit said that when they first started vaping, their device lasted nearly a week. But as they became regular “vapers”, the e-cigarette began to last less. “Mine now recovers in maybe three or four days,” Mohit admitted. “It’s strangely addictive and easy to smoke.”

According to the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, vaping is less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes, but it’s “still not safe.”

In February 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 2,807 cases of lung injury associated with e-cigarette or vaping use and 68 deaths attributed to this condition. Medical research also suggests that vaping is bad for the heart and lungs and that e-cigarettes are “just as addictive” as traditional cigarettes. Additionally, the Center has found that e-cigarettes are not “the best smoking cessation tool”.

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