Is vaping getting young people addicted to tobacco products?


tobacco products,vaping, smoking, Dubai, health

Though adult vapers heaved a sigh of relief, the habit quickly caught on to teenagers.

By Dhanusha Gokulan & Sandhya D'Mello

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Published: Sat 26 Oct 2019, 9:27 PM

When a school in Dubai recently conducted a routine bag check for safety measures, the administration and teaching staff were shocked to find at least four e-cigarettes in the bags of 15-year-old students.
A teacher, on the condition of anonymity, told Khaleej Times: "As part of the school's safety measures, we conduct surprise bag checks of the students. Usually, we find electronic devices such as mobile phones and tablets. We also look for materials that could potentially indicate the child's mental wellbeing."
A few weeks ago, teachers were shocked to find e-cigarettes in their students' bags. "Many teachers did not know what they are. They assumed it was a USB stick. After an internet search, it became clear that the students were carrying e-cigarettes or vaping devices," said the teacher.
Disciplinary actions were taken against students possessing the devices. "We immediately alerted their parents and referred them to the school clinic and the counsellor," said the school's supervisor.
However, the incident gave rise to a million questions: Are students selling devices to other students? Sale of vaping devices to students under the age of 18 is illegal, so how did they buy them? Are older students helping? Are students vaping on-campus? And, the biggest concern of them all: Are students getting addicted to tobacco by using vaping devices?
Vapes readily available
E-cigarettes are handheld battery-powered vaporisers that simulate smoking and provide behavioural aspects of smoking.
Following the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology's (Esma) approved new standards for the nicotine components of e-cigarettes in April this year, retailers are now able to sell the product online and through retail outlets.
Abdullah Al Maeeni, director-general of Esma, told Khaleej Times in an earlier interview: "We issued the regulation to legalise it, and it will be enforced by mid of April 2019, as the authority is working hard through the development of technical standards and regulations."
Though adult vapers heaved a sigh of relief, the habit quickly caught on to teenagers who also seem to be carrying it to school. An Asian parent, who recently caught his kid vaping, said: "I caught my 15-year-old son with an e-cigarette last month. However, he does not think it is bad to 'vape' because they are not 'as bad as cigarettes'. He says 'his friends are doing it too'."
Flavoured tobacco gateway
A new study published on Wednesday in the Jama Network Open, a monthly open-access medical journal published by the American Medical Association, showed that people who are introduced to tobacco via flavoured materials are more likely to continue using it and with more frequency. According to the report, if a person's first tobacco experience involved something flavoured - menthol cigarette, sheesha, or e-cigarette - they are more likely to continue using it.
Researchers also found that youngsters are more likely to be drawn to flavoured products than older adults. People seem to be less attracted to flavoured tobacco as they get older. The study also showed that people who started with flavoured e-cigarettes weren't just likely to keep using them, but also increase frequency with time.

What are schools doing to curtail vaping on campus?
With the growing number of e-cigarettes being found on school campuses, school counsellors and administrators are conducting thorough studies to ascertain how pupils are purchasing a substance that is banned to them.
Zubair Ahmed, head of operations and HR department at the Springdales School Dubai, said: "We have a strict protocol in place on vaping, or even normal cigarettes, that monitors and protects students against such activities. We have done various studies on-campus, and there is a constant checking of false ceilings, toilets, and other such hiding spots for devices."
However, Zubair said a conversation with the students and active involvement of the medical department of schools are necessary to curtail these habits. "Students must be treated with sensitivity and parental involvement is necessary. Furthermore, the school's student council should become an active part of the school's privacy and security policies," said Ahmed.

No form of tobacco or nicotine is safe, say doctors
Doctors have said that no form of tobacco or nicotine is safe and e-cigaettes should not be seen as a 'healthier alternative'.
"The belief that e-cigarettes are a healthier option to continue or start smoking is a false one. There is no form of tobacco or nicotine use that is safe," said Iyaad Hasan DNP, a certified tobacco treatment specialist at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
"These substances were never meant to be in the human body. 'Less harmful' is still 'harmful' - both to yourself and the people around you. When it comes to smoking, there is no safer option other than quitting entirely or never taking up the habit in the first place."
Meanwhile, Dr Santhosh George, a specialist of paediatrics and neonatology at Aster Hospital Mankhool, said: "This is a major area of concern as children could face nicotine dependence in future, and the children who smoke e-cigarettes can be future candidates who develop habits of conventional smoking."
"Data suggests that vaping opens a future gateway to conventional smoking by 31 per cent as compared to non-e-smokers which is only eight per cent. The health problems related to vaping is also attributed to the device itself." According to the medical professionals, respiratory complications are commonly reported, and there has been an increased incidence of cough, chronic bronchitis and asthma among children," he added.
"The device itself can cause problems. There are incidents reported of burns, explosive injuries, chemical injuries," said Dr George.
"There have been reports of accidental poisoning in children - the e-cigarette liquid refills which are kept at home are accidentally ingested by children and can be lethal as it contains high-dose of nicotine."

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