Monday March 04, 2024

E-cigarette users 'at risk' of suffering from respiratory, brain-related issues

Use of e-cigarettes can prove fatal due to threats of lung, oral, and mouth cancers, warns expert

January 21, 2024
A representational image showing a person smoking an e-cigarette. — AFP/File
A representational image showing a person smoking an e-cigarette. — AFP/File

Pakistan has witnessed an alarming increase in electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) which, contrary to popular belief are not safer than traditional cigarettes, and in fact put their users at risk of respiratory, oral, and brain-related issues.

The use of e-cigarettes poses long-term harm to the development of the brain and respiratory system and also has adverse effects on an individual's IQ.

Dr Malik Riaz Khan, Nowshera's government hospital Pabbi's Principal Medical Officer, has warned that regular usage of e-cigarettes can prove fatal due to threats of lung, oral, and mouth cancers.

Citing reports, he said that about 6.2% of the population used vaping/e-cigarettes while 15.9 million (12.4%) used smokeless tobacco.

"The young adults, especially college and university students, when consumed these products do not realise the long term harmful impacts of e-cigarettes and at a later stage expose themselves to serious lung related diseases, nicotine addiction, depression and anxiety," he said.

Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's (KP) Blue Veins and the Provincial Alliance for Sustainable Tobacco Control, have also urged the provincial government and authorities concerned to remain vigilant of the manipulative ways of the tobacco industry stressing the need for concerted efforts to combat these nefarious strategies.

"Governments and civil society organisations must remain active and vigilant against third parties and front groups that are working with the support of the tobacco industry," stated Sana Ahmad, Program Coordinator of Blue Veins, a civil society organisation.

"These entities are working on the behest and support of tobacco companies pushing agendas that serve the industry’s interests ignoring public health.

"E-cigarettes often contain nicotine, an addictive substance that can cause increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and negative changes in brain function. The phenomena especially concern young people, as their brains are still developing," she added.

Meanwhile, Dr Qazi Shahbaz, Chairman, of the Provincial Doctors Association, is of the view that in protecting public health and preventing a new generation from falling prey to nicotine addiction and its harmful consequences, the vaping industry cannot be allowed to undo the progress made in tobacco control so far.

Inhaling the vapour from e-cigarettes can lead to respiratory problems and some studies suggest that e-cigarette aerosol can irritate the airways and cause inflammation leading to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, he said.

Cases of severe lung injury associated with vaping or e-cigarettes have also been reported. The harmful habit can also cause symptoms such as chest pain and difficulty in breathing and in some cases, it can be fatal, he said, stressing a result-oriented plan at a higher level to prevent the spread of e-cigarettes.

Owing to the risk posed by e-cigarettes, the Provincial Alliance for Sustainable Tobacco Control KP has called for an immediate ban on vapes and e-cigarettes in Pakistan.

The alliance has demanded aligning policies with recent directives by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which recommended that governments should treat e-cigarettes similarly to traditional tobacco products and enforce a complete ban on them for the sake of our future generation.

Coordinator, of KP's Tobacco Control Cell, Ajmal Shah has said that new trends in the use of tobacco products are enticing the youth with slogans like "Quit smoking and start vaping" and such slogans should be discouraged.

Unfortunately, these moves are attracting people, especially youngsters towards the use of e-cigarettes, vaping, and heated tobacco products.

It is pertinent to know that KP, in a significant move, has imposed section 144 to ban the storage, sale and use of e-cigarettes and vapes to minors and within the vicinity of educational institutions in the province.

"The decision has been taken in wake of the alarming increase in the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices particularly among children and youth in the province," according to a notification issued by the KP Home Department.

The order imposed a complete ban on the sale of e-cigarettes and vapes to individuals below the age of 21 years throughout the province.

Similarly sale, storage, and use of e-cigarettes and vapes within a distance of 50-metre radius of all educational institutions is prohibited across KP.