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Smoking, which can cause several ailments including cancer, can soon become a thing of the past if quality and diversity of vaping products continue to increase, and costs continue to fall, economists have estimated.
"If product quality and diversity continue to increase, and costs continue to fall, within 20 years vaping could cut smoking rates by 50 percent or more. In 30 years, vaping might eliminate smoking altogether," according to a working paper by Reason Foundation, a US-based non-profit.
"In less than 10 years, vape products have seen a dramatic increase in quality, efficacy and safety, while prices have fallen. Already, millions of smokers have switched," said co-author of the paper Amir Ullah Khan, Member of the Board of Governors at the Presidency University, Bangalore.
In India, the authors estimated that "within a few years perhaps 10 per cent of smokers could switch to vaping. If that happened, close to 11 million people would experience a multitude of benefits, including a substantial reduction in the risk of death from tobacco-related diseases."
"Assuming that the majority of those who switch are under 40, the average increase in life expectancy could be around eight years, resulting in a total saving of around 90 million life-years," the paper said.
Despite claims to offering numerous health benefits when compared to smoking, vaping has remained controversial as health experts are yet to come on one page regrading these benefits, resulting in excessive regulations in some countries and even bans on such products.
If widely adopted, excessively restrictive regulation of vape products will drive up costs, reduce choice, and undermine competition and innovation, the researchers noted.
While some countries, such as Britain, have encouraged innovation by avoiding over-regulation, others such as Australia, Singapore, Brazil, and Mexico have already banned the technology or imposed excessive restrictions.
In India, several states have already imposed bans on the sale of vape products - effectively denying smokers a life-saving technology, the study authors said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) plays a key role providing guidance to countries on tobacco control policies with its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global treaty.
The researchers noted that the world body has been hostile to the health benefits of harm-reduction products like vaping, focusing instead only on getting smokers to quit entirely.
"The WHO's FCTC should change its approach to vape products, recognising their life-saving potential," co-author of the report said Julian Morris, Vice President for Research at Reason Foundation, said.