Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Need to take steps on WHO’s warning on surge of new-age gateway devices among children: Health Experts

Mothers Against Vaping, a united front of concerned mothers combatting the escalating vaping crisis among our youth, on Wednesday, emphasised on the urgent need to take effective steps on the WHO’s (World Health Organisation) warning against the proliferation of new-age gateway devices such as e-cigarettes and vapes, especially among school-going children.

The WHO strongly advocates for the prohibition of vaping and other new age gateway devices in schools due to the international tobacco industry’s persistent targeting of young individuals.

Mothers Against Vaping has also highlighted a 2023 study by the Center for Tobacco Research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Southern California Keck School of Medicine. According to this study, alarming respiratory symptoms such as bronchitis and shortness of breath can afflict young individuals within just 30 days of using electronic cigarettes and other new age gateway devices. The rapid rise in e-cigarette, and other new age gateway products which include Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), heat-not-burn (HNB) has led to the addiction of a new generation in a remarkably short period, jeopardising the health of millions of children, teenagers and young adults. The study adds to mounting evidence linking e-cigarette and other new age gateway devices use to an increased risk of different kinds of respiratory diseases.

Dr. Nayam Raja, Paediatric and Congenital Heart Surgeon, Health City Hospital, Guwahati who had earlier worked in Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network said, “Vaping among children has emerged as a significant concern globally, leading to its ban in various countries, including India. The detrimental health impact on children due to vaping and e-cigarette use are a cause for serious alarm. Continued use of these devices, fuelled by targeted efforts of the international tobacco companies, poses irreversible health risks. Addressing this issue demands a collective global response, necessitating collaboration among stakeholders such as parents, schools and healthcare experts to effectively combat this growing problem.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasised on the pressing need for immediate action to avert the increasingly dangerous exposure of the impressionable children and adolescents to the new-age gateway devices, driven by unethical practices of international tobacco companies. This view is aligned with the position of Mothers Against Vaping who have blamed international tobacco companies for targeting children with their new-age gateway devices to create a new and rapidly expandable customer base. These modern and sleek products which have a fashion element to them, have gained increased accessibility and affordability, despite lacking essential health warnings and posing significant health risks.

Information dissemination and prevention strategies stand as the critical pillars in resolving the new age gateway devices crisis among children. As a part of its commitment, Mothers Against Vaping is trying to provide valuable resources along with timely and crucial information to the schools. The group is actively engaging with schools, offering toolkits and conducting informational sessions. It welcomes and supports the initiatives led by the World Health Organization (WHO) aimed at addressing this growing concern. Through education and preventive measures, Mothers Against Vaping is striving to protect children from the harmful impact of vaping, e-cigarette and other new age gateway devices.

Although smoking rates have decreased among teenagers, WHO has warned about the proliferation of new and emerging tobacco and nicotine products like e-cigarettes as well as the massive surge in vapes, HNB, ENDS and other new age gateway devices. The organisation attributed the rise in e-cigarettes and other new age gateway devices to the tactics employed by the international tobacco industry, it has cited statistics that reveal that nine out of 10 try these products before turning 18, and some as young as 11.

Dr. Abhijit Sarma, Supertindent, Guwahati Medical College and Hospital said, “There exists a looming threat of an entire generation becoming addicted to these new-age tobacco devices, posing a significant risk to their health and well-being. It is imperative that we take comprehensive action to prevent the emergence of a new generation of e-cigarette smokers. Alongside this concerning trend, another issue is that these devices becoming gateway devices to more serious addictions like using cocaine and nicotine.”

Other recent studies have revealed that aerosols from modern gateway devices like e-cigarettes, ENDS, HNB, e-hookah and many more contain harmful particulate matter associated with lung inflammation, DNA damage and heightened lung cancer risk. These devices harbour around 900 to 2,000 distinct chemicals, with many still unidentified. Among these known components, several are hazardous with wide ranging health damaging potential, thereby, raising significant health concerns and cause for alarm. The ultrafine particles and chemicals in e-cigarette and other new age gateway product devices can penetrate deep into the lungs, causing extensive and detrimental respiratory damage.

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