E-cigarette ban: Is vaping as harmless as some think it to be
Studies show that while smoking increases the risk of cancer with time, vaping for just one year can cause serious lung damage and seizures.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that produce smoke when inhaled
Studies show that while smoking increases the risk of cancer with time, vaping for just one year can cause serious lung damage and seizures
While e-cigarette liquid may be relatively harmless, the vaporization process can transform the molecules â�� primarily propylene glycol and glycerol â�� into toxic substances
Last week, the government of India (GoI) introduced an ordinance to ban all kinds of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDs) - including e-hookahs, vapes, vape pens and other smoke-not-burn devices.
(The e-cigarette ban will only come into effect at a future date, if and when President Ram Nath Kovind approves it.)
The announcement has since sparked conversations around the reasons and efficacy of the ban. For example, public intellectuals ask, why ban e-cigarettes but not tobacco products? The world over, bans have also proved ineffective. Arguably, the most famous example of this is the prohibition era in American history.
In the week since the ban, the conversation around ENDS devices is heating up globally, too. New data and research are emerging every day on the health effects of these products.
Let's take a look at the concerns and the health effects of vapes.
First, the concerns
Vapers Association of India has reportedly opposed the nationwide ban on vapes, calling it an injustice to people who want to quit smoking - vapes were originally advertised as helping aids to wean chain smokers off tobacco. Concerns have also been raised that the ban favours the tobacco industry, which currently employs 4.57 crore people, and is worth Rs 11,79,498 crores.
According to one estimate, ENDS might have grown into a $45 million industry in India by 2014.
Bad as cigarettes are for health, it is also becoming harder to ignore the health effects of vapes. Nine people have died so far due to e-cigarette use in the US. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has opened a criminal case against companies in the e-cigarette supply chain after more than 500 people reported health effects from using ENDS. Though the exact cause of their illness is not confirmed yet, it is being linked to some sort of chemical. The illness starts with coughing and shortness of breath and leads to vomiting, diarrhoea and fatigue.
Various states in the US have proposed a ban on the use of vapes. China banned the sales of vapes last year. Now the government of Canada is set to impose regulations on e-cigarette use.
E-cigarettes versus traditional cigarettes
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that produce smoke when inhaled. They usually contain refillable cartridges that contain a liquid with or without nicotine and are marketed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. While nicotine-containing vapes are a popular choice among people who are looking to quit smoking, non-nicotine or flavoured varieties have a distinct fan base of their own among the youth.
The Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service recently raised concerns about the excessive use of these handheld devices amongst the youth, calling it an e-cigarette epidemic.
Further, studies show that while smoking increases the risk of cancer with time, vaping for just one year can cause serious lung damage and seizures. This is not to say that traditional cigarettes are safe, it just means that vapes show negative effects sooner.
More health effects
The FDA has found high levels of carcinogenic compounds such as formaldehyde in e-cigarettes.
The Indian Council of Medical Research in May 2019 released a white paper that labelled all types of ENDs to be potentially dangerous to health with far-reaching effects on almost every system in the body.
Recent research by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine shows that even one-time use of flavoured vapes can damage blood vessels and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
“While e-cigarette liquid may be relatively harmless, the vaporization process can transform the molecules — primarily propylene glycol and glycerol — into toxic substances," said the study's principal investigator Felix W. Wehrli, PhD, a professor of Radiologic Science and Biophysics in a news release.
These compounds are present in almost all flavoured vapes and have previously been found to be airway irritants that cause inflammation with repeated use.
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