The growing use of e-cigarettes or ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems), also known as vaping devices, has become a cause of great concern globally as well as in India.
The perception that e-cigarettes are safe, less harmful than burned tobacco cigarettes and nicotine free has been challenged by experts and organisations like the WHO. Also, it has been disproved that e-cigarettes replace smoking and instead complement cigarette smoking.
Claims of companies manufacturing e-cigarettes that it is harmless are being questioned.
According to a health expert, there is no scientific evidence that e-cigarettes are less harmful. E-cigarette emissions typically contain nicotine and other toxic substances that are harmful to both users, and non-users who are exposed to the aerosols.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is conducting an additional review of e-cigarettes maker, JUUL’s application in the US and is yet to decide.
The FDA in June 2022 also announced that JUUL’s applications “lacked sufficient evidence regarding the toxicological profile of the products to demonstrate that marketing of the products would be appropriate for the protection of the public health”.
The agency has also recently noted that scientific issues unique to its application warrant additional review and stated that the company still cannot legally market or sell its products.
Presently e-cigarettes are banned in more than 45 countries such as Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Brazil, Argentina. Claims made by the manufacturers of e-cigarettes that they are “reduced harm alternatives” are not proven by any independent scientific studies.The WHO says that evidence on the use of ENDS as a smoking cessation aid is inconclusive.
They are in fact gateways to smoking and according to a WHO’s recent report, children and adolescents who use ENDS, even experimentally, are more than twice as likely to later use cigarettes. The same study says that in some countries, up to 70 per cent of adult ENDS users also currently smoke cigarettes.
E-cigarettes complement rather than replaces smoking. JUUL and e-cigarettes vowed to transform smoking but instead sparked a new generation of teenage nicotine addicts. There also have been instances of physical harm such as the incident wherein an e-cigarettes exploded in a teenager’s mouth in Utah shattering his jaw and teeth.
E-cigarettes have become a fashion statement and a fashion accessory as they are marketed to the youth in different flavours, sizes and shapes. Teenagers and young people are increasingly taking up vaping and are putting their health at great risk.
The National Youth Tobacco Survey, 2022 in America found that 2.5 million adolescents use e-cigarettes, with 27.6 per cent of adolescents using the devices daily compared to 2.1 million and 24.7 per cent in 2021.
The WHO has listed the harmful effects of e-cigarettes, from hampering brain development in children and adolescents to impacting the foetus in pregnant women. The long-term deleterious impact on brain development can potentially lead to learning and anxiety disorders.
In May 2019, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) released a White Paper where it noted that e-cigarettes poses risk to the foetus, infant, and child brain development.
The WHO has also pointed out that some evidence suggests that never-smoker minors who use e-cigarettes can double their chance of starting to smoke tobacco cigarettes later in life. E-Cigarettes have also been linked to physical injuries, including burns from explosions or malfunctions, when the products are of sub-standard quality or are tampered with by users.
Accidental exposure of children to ENDS e-liquids poses serious risks as devices may leak, or children may swallow the poisonous e-liquid. It has been shown that ENDS are associated with lung injuries and as per a 2020 US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Report, 64 people have died and 2,758 have been hospitalised due to vaping-related lung injuries.
According to the ICMR, e-cigarettes use adversely affects the cardiovascular system, impairs respiratory immune cell function and airways in a way similar to cigarette smoking and is responsible for severe respiratory disease. The CDC has warned that the aerosol vapour emitted by these devices contains nicotine, carbonyl compounds, heavy metals and other cancer-causing agents.
According to health experts, the aerosol vapour produced by chemicals in e-cigarettes can increase the risk of heart ailments, brain stroke, damage blood vessels and arterial walls, cause lung diseases and damage and lead to nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Other diseases caused by e-cigarettes have been highlighted in various studies.
According to the NYU College of Dentistry Study in February 2022, e-cigarettes cause gum diseases by changing the microbiome, the
community of bacteria and other micro-organisms in the gum.
According to researchers at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital Chronic use of e-cigarettes can result in small airway obstruction and asthma-like symptoms. According to research by the Mayo Clinic in January 2022, published in the Journal of Primary Care & Community Health, E-Cigarette users who were infected with Covid-19 had a higher frequency of experiencing Covid symptoms.
Despite the ban, e-cigarettes are available in shops and stalls across many cities. To save our present generation of youth from its harmful health impact, the ban should be strictly enforced.