E-cigarettes spawning a new generation of smokers: UAE doctors

Reuters file
Reuters file

Dubai - WHO is concerned that children who use vaping products are up to three times more likely to use tobacco products in the future

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James Jose

Published: Thu 29 Jul 2021, 10:02 PM

Last updated: Fri 30 Jul 2021, 6:10 AM

Back in the 60s and the 70s, smoking was considered to be ‘cool’. We would to see movie stars puff away to glory and many tried to ape them to look ‘cool’.

Before they knew it, it became a habit and an addiction. While some have managed to shake it off, a majority haven’t.

That is the power of influencers, and today, we see the same pattern being repeated with e-cigarettes, which the youth are mistakenly influenced to believe are ‘cool’ and ‘less harmful’ than traditional cigarettes.

A recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report presents data showing that consumption of e-cigarettes is on the rise and these products have been marketed to children and adolescents by the tobacco companies, using thousands of appealing flavours and misleading claims about the products. The WHO is concerned that children who use these products are up to three times more likely to use tobacco products in the future and there are fears that e-cigarettes would create a new generation of smokers.

Tobacco use still remains rampant despite restrictions on advertising, promotion and sponsorship and double taxes and medical experts sounded a stern warning on the evils of tobacco and such new products on young impressionable minds.

“The WHO research is in fact the ongoing work from WHO for many years as it was observed that the use of e-cigarettes has increased exponentially in recent years, and they’re now the preferred tobacco of today’s young generation, surpassing traditional products like cigarettes and cigars,” Dr Rakesh Kumar Gupta, deputy medical director, specialist pulmonologist of Lifecare Hospital, told Khaleej Times.

“These new nicotine and tobacco products like e-cigarettes and vaping are used more among children and adolescents. People falsely believe that these are either non-nicotine containing, or they help in quitting smoking,” he added.

“The use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and exposure to nicotine in children and adolescents can have long-lasting, damaging effects on brain development and there is a risk of nicotine addiction to those who otherwise would not have used cigarettes and land up in heavy smoking in the future.”

Dr Sandeep Pargi (pulmonology), specialist in internal medicine at Aster Hospital, said that these new products are a major threat. “Although plenty of awareness has been generated over the years regarding smoking and its effects, all that is now threatened by emergence of e-cigarettes. It is a combination of factors like style statement, peer pressure, family members smoking, but whatever it may be, it leads to addiction,” said Dr Sandeep.

“Many teens believe that vaping is less harmful than smoking. Secondly, e-cigarettes have a lower per-use cost than traditional cigarettes. Finally, vape cartridges are often formulated with flavourings such as apple, mint and watermelon that appeal to younger users. Both teens and adults find the lack of smoke emitted from e cigarettes to be more attractive. With no smell, e-cigarettes reduce the stigma of smoking,” he added.

Dr Rakesh agreed. “Most people who smoke started smoking in their teens, especially those who have friends and/or parents who smoke and are more likely to start smoking earlier than those who don’t. Some teenagers begin after they just want to give it a try.

“In addition, the tobacco industry’s ads, price breaks, and other promotions for its products are a big influence in our society. The false perception by young ones thinking smoking as exciting, glamorous, and safe, is another reason for them to start smoking. Studies show that young people who see smoking in movies, video games and other multimedia platforms are more likely to start smoking early.

“The use of e-cigarettes and other high-tech fashionable electronic “vaping” devices, coming in different flavours and styles, are influencing more and more young people. These products are wrongly seen as harmless and easier to get and use than traditional tobacco products,” Dr Rakesh explained.

On the measures that need to be taken, Dr Rakesh said: “Multi-level measures are needed. Awareness about the various nicotine products and their harmful effects on health should be given at family, school, colleges and communities levels. And countries should adopt the strict WHO-recommended measures.”

How harmful are these products?

>> Though marketed as safer way to smoke, e-cigarettes are equally harmful.

>> Nicotine is the primary agent in both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and it is highly addictive.

>> It causes you to crave a smoke and suffer withdrawal symptoms if you ignore the craving.

>> It raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack and other cardiovascular events.

>> Damaging effects on brain development.

>> Heart disease and lung disorders.


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