The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has warned of a potential public health disaster if action was not taken to completely prohibit and dissuade the use of Electronic Nicotine. Delivery Systems (ENDS) or e-cigarettes given that the nicotine delivered by these devices adversely affect almost all systems in a human body.
Youth are using e-cigarettes (also known as vaping devices) at a rapidly increasing rate.
An electronic cigarette (or e-cig) is a battery-powered vaporizer that mimics tobacco smoking. It works by heating up a nicotine liquid, called “juice.” E-cigarettes contain potentially harmful substances – such as heavy metals like lead, volatile organic compounds and cancer-causing agents.
Availability of flavour variants and attractive designs are adding to allure of devices and globally there was an increasing trend of e-cigarettes consumption among youth and adolescents. As e-cigarettes contain nicotine and not tobacco, they do not fall within the ambit of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA), which mandates stringent health warnings on the packaging and advertisements of tobacco products.
Impact of E-cigarette
It effects on humans include DNA damage; carcinogenesis; cellular, molecular and immunological toxicity; respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological disorders and adverse impact on foetal development and pregnancy.
According to WHO report, nicotine itself is not a carcinogen, it may function as a “tumour promoter” and seems to be involved in the biology of malignant disease, as well as of neuro-degeneration.
E-cigarettes also open a gateway for new tobacco addiction, which is a potential threat to the country’s tobacco control laws and ongoing tobacco control programmes and efforts.
In India smoking devices are easily available through online shopping portals. Smart marketing and inadequate information on the nicotine content in e-cigarettes has created a false impression that these devices are not as harmful as regular cigarettes. In the absence of a regulation the use of e-cigarettes has grown; they are easily accessible to even the non-smokers.
Along with the traditional cigarette manufacturing, there is a parallel industry of e-cigarette like devices growing in India, which is under-regulated.
What can be done?
There are more than 460 different e-cigarette brands with varying configurations of nicotine delivery available in the market. The ICMR has recommended complete prohibition on ENDS or e-cigarettes in India in the greater interest of protecting public health.
By bringing together all stakeholders under one umbrella to prevent this impending epidemic of e-cigarettes use. Advertising has been shown to promote a positive brand image for vaping devices and to spur youth to try them, while social media marketing has been linked to explosive growth in sales. Therefore, governments globally should promptly ban all e-cigarette advertising.
Governments should also mandate plain packaging for vaping devices, ban their use wherever tobacco use is banned and strictly limit the accessibility of sales to youth – placing e-cigarettes behind the pharmacy counter.