E-cigarette marketing online: characteristics of websites serving the Indian market
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Salaam Bombay Foundation, Tobacco Control & Advocacy, India
Publish date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A200
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Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), commonly known as e-cigarettes in India are an emerging and controversial product in tobacco control debates. Previous studies suggest that use of ENDS by youth in numerous countries is expanding, however very limited information on use and access is known for the Indian market.

A survey of online merchants selling e-cigarettes was conducted in May 2015 by student volunteers of the Salaam Bombay Foundation. The search terms “e-cigarette”, “electronic nicotine delivery system” etc. were used to identify online vendors. All websites selling and delivering e-cigarettes in India were included.

21 online vendors providing delivery in India were found in the survey. 17 vendors (81.0%) exclusively sold ENDS, while remaining shops sold products beyond ENDS.
62% shops (n=13) sold refillable and disposable products. Remaining 38% shops (n=8) sold refillable ENDS exclusively. The ENDS with a lowest price was Rs. 219 ($3.25 USD) and average lowest price was Rs. 905 ($13.44 USD). 52% online vendors (n=11) included a health warning, and two-thirds of vendors (n=14) included a message indicating sales to those under 18 years of age were not permitted. Positive health messages indicating that ENDS are safe or safer than cigarettes, were found on the web pages of 57.1% (n=12) vendors. The most common positive health claims included were, ENDS are “safer” (42.9%, n=9), have “no smoke” (28.6%, n=6) and produce “no ash” (19.0%, n=4). 90% online vendors (n=19) included a link to social media platforms.

This study suggests that there are a variety of online vendors available to children and youth in India interested in purchasing ENDS at various price-points. Such online sales should be regulated to remove positive health claims and ensure mechanisms to prevent the sale of ENDS to minors. Tobacco control programs should include information on the potential harms of ENDS devices.