The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR) team alongside local partners including the Association of Vapers India (AVI), hosted an event entitled 'The science and philosophy of harm reduction' on 17th October 2019 in New Delhi.
Every year, it is thought that between 700,000 and 1 million people a year die in India from a smoking-related disease. There are approximately 80 to 100 million adult daily tobacco smokers in the country and in addition, about 240 million people consume a wide range of other tobacco products. This involves either smoking tobacco in alternative local forms (e.g. bidis, hookah and chillum) or chewed smokeless tobacco (SLT) products, such as khaini, zarda, gutkha and others.
Even in the face of this ongoing public health crisis, proponents of tobacco harm reduction, particularly the users of e-cigarettes or vapes, are facing a challenging environment in India. Legislation has banned the sale, import, manufacture and distribution of e-cigarettes and e-liquids. Researchers also face a moratorium on any academic work focused on e-cigarettes.
In spite of the multiple challenges, the GSTHR team and our partners were able to engage with people who recognise the potential of tobacco harm reduction to reduce India’s toll of non-communicable diseases and deaths caused by smoking. An invited audience of academics, drugs/HIV/AIDS harm reduction service managers, psychiatrists, medics and consumers took part in a session entitled ‘The science and philosophy of harm reduction’.
As with all GSTHR events, the primary aim is to build capacity and resilience in the local, national and regional networks supporting tobacco harm reduction. In New Delhi, new contacts were established and nurtured, and real cross-agenda capacity building was started.