Why vapes being safer than cigarettes is a myth

In India, the use of e-cigarettes, vape devices and JUUL is increasing.

 |  4-minute read |   20-10-2018
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Electronic Nicotine delivery system (ENDS) in the form of e-cigarettes, vaping and recently introduced JUUL devices being used by the youth, especially the school-going and college-going children are the latest strategy of tobacco industry to lure youngsters.

GATS 2 (Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2016-17) study has clearly shown the reduction in number of tobacco users by about 81 lakh in India. However, the use of e-cigarettes, vape devices and JUUL is increasing because the youth is not aware of the health hazards of these products and moreover, these devices appear to them as attractive, cool, hi-tech and easy to carry. They are also easily hidden from parents and teachers. They also come out in appealing flavours and are wrongly perceived as less harmful than the traditional tobacco products.

vape-1-reuters_102018104658.jpgIn India, the use of e-cigarettes, vape devices and JUUL is increasing. (Photo: Reuters)

Busting myths

The JUUL is a type of e-cigarette that resembles a flash drive. It has two components: the base includes the battery and temperature regulating systems and the upper part has e-liquid cartridge containing nicotine and other flavouring chemicals. The nicotine content is 0.7ml (59mg/ml) per pod which is approximately equivalent to one packet of cigarette or 200 puffs. So, consuming one JUUL pod a day means consuming nicotine equivalent to a pack of cigarettes a day. The nicotine content per puff in such devices is comparatively higher when compared to traditional cigarettes.

Similarly, ‘Heat Not Burn’ products are being introduced by tobacco industry, claiming them to be safer than traditional cigarettes, which is again a myth. There are no long term studies on the safety profile of all these devices, hence their claim of being safe are objectionable. Most of these devices are available on online markets with offers of discounts. Students get away with puffing JUULS in class and home as parents and teachers may not recognise it as anything other than a flash drive. That is why a chapter on tobacco control in school curriculum is essential to sensitise students, teachers and parents altogether in one go.

E-cigarette aerosol contains harmful and potentially harmful substances, including nicotine, heavy metals like lead, volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing agents. Some research studies have shown that nicotine alone can mutate the genome and initiate cancer. Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing, or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through their skin or eyes.

Double damage

Researchers from University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein in Germany monitored participants’ vitals during and after they had smoked a cigarette, e-cigarette, or nicotine-free e-cigarette. As per results, e-cigarette adversely affected blood pressure and heart rate and effects were long-lasting as compared to traditional cigarettes.

vape-2-reuters_102018104711.jpgE-cigarette adversely affects blood pressure and heart rate and effects are long-lasting as compared to traditional cigarettes.(Photo: Reuters)

Nicotine exposure during the periods of significant brain development such as adolescence, can cause lower impulse control and mood disorders. This can make young brains prone to addiction to other drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine. It is also mentioned that as per US Public Health Service Surgeon General Report, e-cigarette products can also be used as a delivery system for marijuana and other illicit drugs. A study by CDC (Centre for Disease Control) found that many adults are using e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit smoking.

However, most adult e-cigarette users do not stop smoking cigarettes and are instead continuing to use both products (known as ‘dual use’). Campaigning for e-cigarette as a cessation device is completely a myth and unethical.

Nicotine therapies are to be prescribed by a qualified therapist so that the dose is regulated but in case of e-cigarettes or vaping, the dose cannot be regulated and self therapy only leads to shifting from one addiction to another and may also cause acute accidental toxicity. It is mentioned that India has a large number of smokers (100 million) as compared to Britain (7.2milion). Moreover, the level of awareness and sensitisation in view of low literacy among people especially in rural areas in India is a big hurdle to advocate such policies and not advisable. So policies in UK may not be effective in India.

Complete ban

No doubt that all kinds of tobaccos including traditional cigarette/bidi should be banned but till the time they are banned, they have to be restricted/regulated under COTPA. Due to enforcement issues and tobacco industry’s interference, we have not been able to regulate them fully; therefore it is dangerous for new products like e-cigarettes to enter this list. There should be a complete ban on similar devices and this will boost the public health by preventing large number of diseases like cancer, TB, diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung disorder, brain stroke, heart attack and many more.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: Foods smokers must eat if they can't kick the habit

Writer

SK Arora SK Arora

The writer is Addl. Director Health & Head, Delhi State Tobacco Control Programme, Govt of Delhi.

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