Youth across the country are reporting limited use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and heated tobacco products (HTN) since their ban in 2019 in India. But they have noticed promotional activities for these products on Instagram, Whatsapp, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter.
These findings were revealed by a national survey conducted in February 2022 by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in collaboration with Chair on Consumer Law and Practice, National Law School India University to assess use, accessibility, and marketing exposure for E-Cigarette, Heated Tobacco products (HTN) and other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) after these were banned in India September 2019.
A total of 4,049 young adults in the age group of 18-35 were engaged to understand their use of and access to these products since their effective ban in November 2019. 94% of respondents have never used e-cigarette or other ENDS. Only 4% reported using e-cigarette or other ENDS since the ban came into force. Those using the products said they are using e-cigarettes/HTN/ENDS products for social reasons (50%), followed by liking for the flavors (27%), and need to replace/reduce use of a tobacco product (24%).
Survey findings reveal that 26% of the respondents noticed some form of marketing on social media platforms which shows continued targeting of youth through these channels. Of the 26%, nearly 60% of them saw ads on Instagram, WhatsApp (22.6%), Facebook (17.3%), TikTok (14.3%), and Twitter (6.8%). In-person promotional events were noticed by 22.6%. The products are being sold and promoted as harm reduction products especially amongst youth, through social media, and web portals.
Commenting on the use of accessibility and marketing exposure for ENDS products, Ms. Vandana Shah, Regional Director, South Asia Program, CTFK said, “Countries around the world have been looking to India’s comprehensive ban on e-cigarettes/HTPs as a regulatory model but have expressed some skepticism about effectiveness. The results of this national survey are very encouraging with over 90% of youth reporting that they have never used these novel products. But continued vigilance is needed to safeguard youth from increased marketing through social media channels.”
According to the survey, Karnataka (38.1%) emerged as the most prominent state in terms of accessibility of these products followed by Maharashtra (12.4%), Tamil Nadu (9.3%), Uttar Pradesh (6.7%) and Kerala (6.5%). The prominent source of purchasing e-cigarette is paan shop or Indian online retailers despite these products being banned in the country.