New Delhi, Dec 15 (IANS) A day after the World Health Organization (WHO) urged governments to treat e-cigarettes akin to tobacco and impose a ban on all flavours, health experts in India have called on the government to take immediate action.
The plea is coupled with an appeal to the nation’s youth to renounce smoking in all its forms.
While e-cigarettes, commonly known as vapes, have been considered by some as a potential tool in mitigating the adverse health effects associated with traditional smoking, the WHO contends that “urgent measures” are required to control the growing use of vapes.
In India, a concerning trend has emerged with more 13-15-year-olds using vapes than adults, pointing to the aggressive marketing strategies employed to lure the younger demographic.
“Like other WHO countries, 13-15-year-olds and even adults are using vapes in India. Aggressive marketing of vapes has attracted the younger population more towards it. There are enough studies and sufficient evidence that vapes also create health problems affecting the lungs. It might help tobacco smokers quit, but they are harmful to health and could drive nicotine addiction among non-smokers, especially children and young people,” Dr. Col. Vijay Dutta, Internal Medicine & Pulmonologist, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC), New Delhi, told IANS.
The experts emphasise that vapes cannot serve as a viable substitute for tobacco smoking.
The annual death toll of over 8.67 million attributed to tobacco use underscores the urgency of addressing this public health crisis.
“We cannot endorse the industry’s claim that vapes pose significantly lower health risks than tobacco. Youngsters are falling into the trap of using e-cigarettes early on and may become addicted to nicotine. Stringent measures are imperative, and a blanket ban could be the most effective solution. This includes bans on all flavouring agents, such as menthol, and applying tobacco control measures to vapes,” Dr. Soumya Mukherjee, Consultant, BMT, Haematology & Haemato Oncology at Narayana Hospital, Howrah told IANS.
The WHO said that while the long-term health risks of vapes remain unclear, they generate substances known to cause cancer, pose risks to heart and lung health, and could impact brain development in young people.
In India, where tobacco use is a leading risk factor for premature deaths, the urgency to address this issue is underscored by the experts who assert that tobacco use is among the unhealthy behaviours responsible for a preventable burden of cancers, strokes, and heart diseases.
“Nicotine and vaping products can have serious negative effects on the health of children and adolescents. Inhalation of nicotine through vaping can harm developing brains, impacting memory, attention, and impulse control. Nicotine is highly addictive, and early exposure increases the risk of lifelong addiction,” Dr Nehal Shah, Consultant Paediatrician, SRCC Hospital, Mumbai, told IANS.
Dr Shah said it is crucial to educate youth about the risks associated with nicotine and vaping, promoting awareness to prevent the initiation of these harmful habits and safeguard the well-being of future generations. Any kind of smoking is highly discouraged in kids and actions must be taken to quit smoking.
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