E-cigarettes may be trendy but are they safe?

Experts warn vaping may not be a healthy alternative to smoking as many consumers assume

Zulfiqar Baig July 08, 2019
Experts warn vaping may not be a healthy alternative to smoking as many consumers assume. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Electronic cigarettes have become a fashion statement among young tobacco consumers in the federal capital and most of them assume it is safe -- but it is not.  Despite the health warnings associated with smoking e-cigarettes, it is creating a generation of nicotine addicts.

According to an e-cigarettes dealer, young consumers between the ages of 18-21, show an increasing interest in these electronic products.

“E-cigarettes are particularly popular among young boys and girls who have been educated abroad,” he said.  Equating the use of e-cigarettes to a fashion statement, he said “e-cigarettes are in demand just like the purchase of latest mobile phones. It is a fashion statement.”

Health experts warn e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to smoking. According to Dr Nabeel, it is just another way of consuming nicotine — a highly addictive chemical compound which can affect brain development in the long run.

“Nicotine consumption is the leading cause for depression,” said Dr Nabeel.

When compared with the health risks of second-hand tobacco smoke, e-cigarette vapour is less harmful. However, thirteen countries have imposed a complete ban on e-cigarettes, including Singapore, Thailand and Brazil.  In the US, San Francisco has become the first city to ban sales of e-cigarettes until their health effects are measured.

Despite the global debate about the sale of vapes, upscale commercial spots like Kohsar Market in the federal capital continue to sell an assortment of imported e-cigarettes. Priced between Rs5,000 and Rs20,000, a typical e-cigarette package contains a charger, a power bank and a cable.

When it comes to consumers, the response is mixed.  Some openly voice their concerns about the use of the new vaping devices in the market.

“E-cigarettes must be banned as they turn consumers into addicts,” said Qasim Rafiq. The 18-year-old student claims e-cigarettes are as harmful as shisha, which uses cancer-causing chemicals.

On the other side, Adnan Ahmed and Farhan Khan, who have been using e-cigarettes for the last three years, claim they have not had any health issues so far. Although e-cigarettes have been marketed as a tool to help tobacco smokers quit smoking, the health risks cannot be undermined.  Global health studies reveal that e-cigarettes are not free from harmful effects.

Apart from the obvious health risks, e-cigarette explosions during heating or charging have also been reported.

At the moment, there is no policy to regulate the sale of these devices in Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 08th, 2019.


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