New Delhi: With ample evidence available which links tobacco/nicotine to so many health-related issues (cancer, cardiac, pulmonary, psychological) it is still an ever growing industry in almost all countries around the world. This despite the fact that tobacco has been linked to cancer as far back as the 1950s.
Dr Ashu Abhishek, Senior Consultant, Oncology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute (FMRI) talks about the high risks of smoking the e-cigarette variety. With rising awareness numerous alternatives are available in the market– e-cigarettes being one of the most important ones.
E-cigarettes are also known as e-cigs, ENDS or ANDS (electronic/ alternative nicotine delivery system), e-hookahs, vape pens or now even fancy pipes and flash drives.
Working of e-cigarettes is based on a battery operated heating device to heat any liquid into aerosol that imitates smoke/ vapour (Vaping). The idea was pretty good had it been restricted to nicotine or any chemical free device, but alas, it is now well known that these e-cigs, too, are harmful, leading to a number of countries imposing bans on these devices now.
Contrary to the beliefs of many, e-cigs are not always nicotine free, although the quantity may be less. Moreover the chemical used to produce aerosol or generated as a by-product in these devices may be synthetic like propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine for fogging.
Volatile organic compounds or VOCs, flavouring chemicals like diacetyl, Formaldehyde for a dry puff produced due to overheating are known not only to be cancer related but also causes chronic irritation in the lungs leading to airway diseases, asthma, cough, bronchitis, nose and throat irritation, headache and nausea.
Stress on cardiac functions, derangements in liver and kidney function and also psychological issues like anxiety, irritation, etc can be a result.
The issue with e-cigs is that even food and drug regulatory authorities in various countries are not aware of long term effect of many constituents used in these devices by many manufacturers. This is the reason there are no restrictions in the composition. Moreover, most of the potentially harmful constituents are not labelled correctly.
The other problem with e-cigs is that as it has ironically been thought to be a safe alternative to nicotine. This is not true because even though the actual presence of nicotine is in smaller amounts, the combination of other chemicals is still considered harmful. Majority of smokers do not switch completely, instead they end up being dual smokers of conventional and electronic cigarettes at the same time, which is more dangerous.
The false hope of being a safe alternative has led to use of multiple puffs of so called fractionated dose which ultimately ends up in almost similar if not more exposure over time. The availability in the form of flash drives and fancy pens has also made e-cig popular amongst the youth and even with school children. Resulting in more ruthless penetration of vaping.
What is more alarming is the so-called gateway theory which says if less deleterious drugs are readily available, it may make way for more dangerous drugs later. Thus, e-cigs with known ill effects on the body be it cancerous or even non-cancerous chronic lung diseases, should not be promoted as a smart alternative to smoking. It has no potential benefits and it can never be a natural way towards a healthier or fitter life.