We all know and fully understand that governments around the world regulate everything. There's nothing that is/will be allowed without regulation. And in case of vaping, it may be worse. They may ban vaping completely throughout India very soon. Two states have already banned sales (Punjab and Maharashtra) and third (Kerala) is about to follow the suit. I personally, would consider getting it regulated than to be completely banned.
So, before the Indian government regulates vaping in India, why not we put some self-regulation in place and when the time comes, we have something to say to the government, "Look! This is what we are doing to keep people protected and offering them an informed choice between smoking and vaping".
So let's discuss what all we can do to self-regulate vaping in India. The governments around the globe are slapping vaping/vapers for primarily these excuses/reasons:
These are the primary reasons why vaping is being thrashed and we are at the verge of country-wide ban. If anyone thinks otherwise, please think again. Let's take each excuse/reason one at a time ..
- [li]Lack of information about vaping and considering vaping is smoking.[/li]
[li]Vaping stimulates minors to begin vaping.[/li]
[li]Vaping may be dangerous to health.[/li]
[li]No warnings and labels on Vaping devices about potential hazards/harms of vaping.[/li]
[li]Nicotine is addictive and lethal. Eliquids may kill people.[/li]
[li]No quality control, batteries exploding.[/li]
Lack of information and considering vaping is smoking: Sad but true! Very few decision makers at the top level know about what vaping really is. Vaping is being wrongly treated as smoking just because of the name eCigarette. Education is needed to inform them that vaping is NOT smoking. In case of cigarettes, there's combustion. But in case of vaping, there's no combustion and hence, shouldn't be treated the same as smoking.
We need to educate each and every buyer about the difference between vaping and smoking. Probably putting a small piece of paper/info card with such information in each package that goes out of your store/warehouse, will do some good and spread awareness. Such a card can fall in the hands of government officials or decision makers which will vouch for us. Awareness is what we lack at the most since nobody out there in the government knows much about the difference.
Vaping stimulates minors to begin vaping: As much we may like to counter-attack the statement, it is an issue worth considering. Indian government will be using this excuse to ban vaping. So we need to put certain procedures in place that allow us to make sure the person buying a vaping product at the other end is NOT a minor. People will do all sorts of things to get what they want. However, as a seller, you have to make sure that you do the needful at your end and make sure that you stay within the legal framework. It is your responsibility to check IDs and what not to make sure the customer buying at the other end is of the right age, which is 18+
So what exactly can we do? Integrate some sort of Age/ID verification service to make sure the buyer is of the legal age. Asking the end user, "Are you 18+?" Yes/No may not be enough to convince the Indian government that we are taking enough precautions to ensure nothing falls in the hands of youngsters.
Perhaps, we could take the end buyer's Aadhaar Card ID or Voter ID (which are unique and can be perhaps verified or checked online). Which means, if no ID is presented, no sales to those peeps. Or maybe one of us could begin a new service like IndiaID.in or some domain name where we can setup a system that verifies the ID of a person and give them a unique ID that allows them to purchase vaping products.
Vaping may be dangerous to health: We all know how safe it is, but it will be an uphill task to explain the same to the government. Whoever named vaping in the beginning as eCigarettes, most decision makers up there don't even hear the word "e" in eCigarettes and all they hear is "Cigarette". Hence, vaping is being treated just like smoking.
We need to have a centralized body (an organization with a lab setup) that makes sure that nothing harmful goes into the eLiquids that manufacturers/resellers are selling. Some sort of certification should be put in place so that when the time comes, we can show to the government that, "Look, we have this lab setup that checks and makes sure the quality of the product is diacetyl free, has a safe amount of nicotine and the product is passed through rigorous testing before certification is provided to a manufacturer or a reseller". Such a certification will save our ass from being totally unheard.
No warnings and labels on Vaping devices about potential hazards/harms of vaping: None of us know about the long-term effects of vaping. Indian government is definitely going to use it as a means of shutting us down. So what I suggest, we put warning signs on whatever product is sold, "Vaping may be injurious to your health". Or, anything similar that warns the end user that it may not be completely safe to vape like many people think. I believe, even writing, "Vaping IS injurious to your health" wont be bad since most people will do what they want to do. Has the "warnings" on smoking packs ever worked? Didn't work in my case. I developed "waring blindness" after a little while.
I get loads of inquiries from various different folks about the effects of vaping and most of those folks think that vaping is 100% safe, which is not entirely true. Not many studies have been conducted and none of us know about the problems in case of long-term usage of vaping devices/eLiquids. So some sort of information will have to be provided on the packages of vaping products so that when the government tries to ban vaping, we can show them, "Look, we have put such signs to warn the end user of the long-term effects of vaping".
Nicotine is Addictive and lethal: Again, we need some sort of lab setup which is funded by manufacturers/sellers and the purpose of the lab will be to provide certification. The basis of certification could be anything, like, collecting samples from certified sellers from time to time and doing tests to ensure that the Nic strength and other quality control measures are taken to ensure nothing harmful/lethal goes to the hands of the end user. I'm sure most reputed sellers in India are doing all of the above but still, we need something to show to the government.
Probably, manufacturers/sellers can agree to donate a small percentage of each of their sale and not only fund the lab but also fund for legalities involved with approving vaping. A major joint effort is required from the key players in this business.
No Quality Control, Batteries Exploding: This is one area that requires special attention from all importers. There's a mass hysteria in the governing bodies, customs, logistics, aviation industry, etc when it comes to batteries and battery products. We all know what kind of batteries explode: fake cells, rewrapped cells from cloners, cheap batteries purchased from unknown Alibaba/Aliexpress sellers, etc.
We need to form bodies that will ensure quality control. Probably provide certification to certain sellers that can form alliance with good brands out there (LG, Samsung, Sony, etc) and make sure that only authentic A-Grade batteries and battery products are imported. Unless we take some measures, things will only go down south.
Right now, only two states are affected throughout India. Things haven't really taken a bad shape yet. However, expect a major crackdown soon since we know who all BIG players are involved in getting vaping banned worldwide. So we have to make a move and regulate ourselves before the government bans/regulates us with much harsh regulations.
If we are able to form such certification bodies, we will have something to show to the government and not let them completely boot us into extinction. The whole idea of this document is to put a discussion on the table, how can we make sure "vaping exists and grows in India". Whoever will fund such an organization/lab setup/certification authority, will have a chance to exist when the regulations kick in. Whoever won't support and won't contribute, will be shut down by the government. It's simple as that.
It is good in one sense, all the flyby merchants and sellers will be shut down but those who comply with regulations may have a chance to exist.
[size=1.35em]TO DO LIST[/size]
- [li]Integrate some sort of Age/ID verification service to make sure the buyer is of the legal age. Asking the end user "Are you 18+?" Yes/No may not be enough to convince the Indian government that we are taking enough precautions to ensure nothing falls in the hands of youngsters.[/li]
[li]A community funded lab setup to provide certification to merchants and sellers after thorough testing of their vaping products. This certification will help in ensuring quality standards are met with each product manufacturers/sellers/resellers are selling.[/li]
[li]"Warning Labels" to be put on everything manufacturers/sellers sell. Let's design some graphical content to warn the end user that, "Vaping may be injurious to health".[/li]
[li]Information cards to be added to orders/packages that inform the end user how vaping can be helpful, how vaping is different from smoking and how is it lesser harmful. Also, include the warning that "Vaping may be harmful to health. However, effects of long-term usage are not known yet.[/li]
[li]By means of information card (sent with every order), perhaps we can also urge customers to spread awareness among friends and family. If we begin sending such info cards (probably a few merchants are already doing that, kudos!), it might just help spreading awareness. Every bit helps![/li]
[li]Standardizing all of the above throughout your distribution network. How can standardizing help? We all know the answer.[/li][size=1.35em]POSITIVE MEDIA COVERAGEWe needs lots and lots and lots of media coverage. We already have media coverage in the negative sense where newspaper agencies are thrashing the vaping community by spreading nonsensical news. But we need positive media coverage too. We have to find ways to get someone to counter those nonsensical statements.
I just hope/wish that one celebrity (who vapes) stands out in the crowd and for once says, "Vaping Is NOT Smoking". Imagine the impact of such a statement! One vaper celebrity gives one article in a news magazine, "Vaping is NOT smoking and is lesser harmful than smoking". Imagine the impact if it gets a good media coverage.
Well, this is not part of self-regulating but I just wanted to include this and talk about in the same meeting, so included it in the same document although dealing with media is huge chapter/debate on it's own.