Is vaping less harmful? UAE doctor warns of health risks as e-cigarettes gain popularity

Non-smokers exposed to second-hand vape aerosol absorb nicotine levels equivalent to those exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke

By Khadijah Buksh

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Published: Tue 18 Jun 2024, 12:47 PM

Last updated: Tue 18 Jun 2024, 10:49 PM

The UAE's e-cigarette market is expected to reach an annual growth rate of 7.28 per cent over the next five years, according to a recent study by an online portal on consumer markets. By the end of this year, the revenue in the e-cigarette market is projected to reach $68.5m, added Hamburg-based Statista.

The use of e-cigarettes, also known as vaping, can be attributed to people using them as a smoking alternative or for smoking cessation. The colourful packaging and fruity flavours, however, are seemingly concealing the truth from the public on how detrimental these electronic pockets of nicotine truly are – not only to the vapers but also to people who are exposed to second-hand vape aerosol," a Dubai-based doctor told Khaleej Times.

"Non-smokers exposed to second-hand vape aerosol absorb nicotine levels equivalent to those exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke," explained Dr Mohammed Harriss, consultant pulmonologist at Medcare Sharjah and Medcare Royal Speciality Hospital Al Qusais.

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Dr Harriss explained that vape aerosol contains several carcinogens, including lead and formaldehyde, "which could increase the risk of developing certain malignancies like cancer."

Vape liquid has been discovered to contain thousands of unknown chemicals and substances, which to the present day remain undisclosed by the manufacturers. Once the vape liquid has been heated from the user's inhalation and disperses into the air, the ultrafine chemicals can then enter the lungs of those in close proximity, according to the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Hazard of rising popularity

Dr Harriss noted the main hazard posed by e-cigarettes is their rising popularity, which can lead to possibly risking the renormalisation of smoking. “Smoking is the largest preventable cause of death, and vaping should not be an excusable alternative to the use of cigarettes,” he added.

“Reversing the hard-won gains made in the global drive to reduce smoking would be catastrophic,” continued Dr Harriss, advising that a similar – if not the same – attitude held regarding smoking should also be held towards vaping, as an increasing number of vape users are suffering from lung injuries and irreversible lung damage as a result of breathing in the dangerous chemicals in vape products.

Dr Harriss noted vaping has become popular with former non-smokers and the youth because the vapour from these devices tends to evaporate fairly quickly, therefore making it easier to conceal. For some, vaping is viewed as less harmful than cigarettes.

Research conducted last month by the US federal agency Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revealed several cases of both children and adults being poisoned by swallowing or breathing in the remnants of vape smoke or absorbing it through their skin and eyes.

Tobacco-free workplaces

In order to combat this growing issue, the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) released last week a tobacco-free workplace guide for companies, eliminating the presence of tobacco products on work premises.

The guide includes educational materials regarding the impact of smoking on individuals and the environment, as well as providing practical instructions for managers and employees to effectively establish a smoke-free work environment, alongside important details regarding the appropriate procedures for addressing violations.

UAE laws forbid smoking in closed public places. The use of any form of tobacco in all public places, including governmental, health, educational institutions, modes of public transport, and other public places, is also prohibited, according to the guide.


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