Wednesday December 19, 2018

Banning E-Cigarettes Deprives Indian Smokers of a Less Harmful Alternative: Experts

The government is allowing the sales of lethal nicotine-containing products while banning a substantially less harmful alternative

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Ban on e-cigarettes, Pixabay
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Sep 02, 2017: Banning e-cigarettes may deprive Indian smokers of a substantially less harmful alternative, which can be against public health and can result in adverse consequences, experts have warned.

Some states in India, including Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Punjab, Maharashtra and Kerala, have prohibited sales of e-cigarettes, while tobacco cigarettes remain legal.

According to media reports, the Union Health Ministry has recently ruled out acceptability of e-cigarettes in the light of research findings by experts who concluded that they have cancer-causing properties, are highly addictive, and do not offer a safer alternative to tobacco-based smoking products.

However, health experts argued that such decision creates a paradox. The government is allowing the sales of lethal nicotine-containing products — tobacco cigarettes — while banning a substantially less harmful alternative.

“In my opinion, banning e-cigarettes is against public health. I think it’s going to have an impending adverse consequence, because the ban will deprive Indian smokers of a substantially less harmful alternative,” Konstantinos E. Farsalinos a research fellow at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in Athens, Greece, told IANS in an interview.

Also Read: E-Cigarettes loaded with nicotine-based liquid may be as Harmful as Smoking, Says Research

“Banning is a hasty decision and can be counter-productive, because we are not aware of the extent of e-cigarette use or its harm in India,” added R.N. Sharan, Professor at North-Eastern Hill University in Shillong, Meghalaya.

An e-cigarette is a battery-operated device that uses a liquid “e-liquid” that may contain nicotine, as well as varying compositions of flavourings, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and other ingredients.

In tobacco cigarette, there is combustion, a burning of an organic material, which generates temperature up to 900 degree Celsius, and thus produces all the harmful material.

Whereas, in e-cigarettes there is neither combustion nor tobacco. There is only the burning of the liquid, made up of ingredients approved for food and contains minimal burning, which is 100-1000 times lower compared to tobacco cigarette.

A study published in the journal The Lancet showed that India has 11·2 per cent of the world’s total smokers. Over 11 per cent of 6.4 million deaths worldwide was caused by smoking in 2015 and 52.2 per cent of them took place in China, India, Russia, and the US, the report said.

Further, the experts contented that banning e-cigarettes is contrary to worldwide trends.

Various studies conducted in the US, UK and other countries in the European Union, have shown that e-cigarettes have resulted in a significant decline in smoking rates.

Several countries like Switzerland, Belgium, New Zealand, Canada and the US, which were formerly advocating for bans, are now moving towards lifting the bans on e-cigarettes, Farsalinos said.

“Earlier in July, the US FDA cancelled the intended regulation saying that e-cigarettes may probably help a substantial proportion of smokers to quit smoking and switch to less harmful alternative,” Farsalinos said.

“The UK’s Royal College of Physicians recently advised the UK Government to promote the use of e-cigarettes (along with conventional nicotine replacement methods) as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking,” Farsalinos stated.

A survey of over 27,000 participants all over Europe, published in Eurobarometer in 2016, showed that more than one-third of e-cigarette users polled reported smoking cessation and reduction.

“With India being devoid of good monitoring systems and rich data of research, it should take cue from these countries. Ignoring the evidence from other countries, while the country doesn’t have much of its own, and deciding on bans, can be a bad idea,” Farsalinos said.

Importantly, e-cigarettes appear to be effective when used by smokers as an aid to quitting smoking.

The hazard to health arising from long-term vapour inhalation from the e-cigarettes is unlikely to exceed five per cent of the harm from smoking tobacco, the experts said.

“While, its not absolutely safe, it is 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco cigarette,” Farsalinos said, adding: “We don’t recommend it to a non-smoker. We always say it’s a product for smokers, and should be used as a smoking substitute.”

However, it is best to quit smoking without use of any alternative.

Farsalinos said that although marketing for e-cigarettes is essential, it needs to be done with strict regulation.

There is also an urgent need to create a competitive environment between a less harmful product and tobacco cigarette, which includes accessibility and price, the experts said. (IANS)

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Drug Use Among Teens Down in The U.S. But Vaping Still On The Rise

The vaping explosion is a big worry, however. Health officials say nicotine is harmful to developing brains.

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In this April 11, 2018, photo, an unidentified 15-year-old high school student uses a vaping device near the school's campus in Cambridge, Mass. Health and education officials across the country are raising alarms over wide underage use of e-cigarettes and other vaping products. The devices heat liquid into an inhalable vapor that's sold in sugary flavors like mango and mint — and often with the addictive drug nicotine. VOA

Twice as many high school students used nicotine-tinged electronic cigarettes this year compared with last year, an unprecedented jump in a large annual survey of teen smoking, drinking and drug use.

It was the largest single-year increase in the survey’s 44-year history, far surpassing a mid-1970s surge in marijuana smoking.

The findings, released Monday, echo those of a government survey earlier this year. That survey also found a dramatic rise in vaping among children and prompted federal regulators to press for measures that make it harder for kids to get them.

Experts attribute the jump to newer versions of e-cigarettes, like those by Juul Labs Inc. that resemble computer flash drives and can be used discreetly.

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Customers puff on e-cigarettes at the Henley Vaporium in New York City. VOA

Trina Hale, a junior at South Charleston High School in West Virginia, said vaping — specifically Juul — exploded at her school this year.

“They can put it in their sleeve or their pocket. They can do it wherever, whenever. They can do it in class if they’re sneaky about it,” she said.

Olivia Turman, a freshman at Cabell Midland High School in Ona, West Virginia, said she too has seen kids “hit their vape in class.”

The federally funded survey released Monday is conducted by University of Michigan researchers and has been operating since 1975. This year’s findings are based on responses from about 45,000 students in grades 8, 10 and 12 in schools across the country. It found 1 in 5 high school seniors reported having vaped nicotine in the previous month.

After vaping and alcohol, the most common thing teens use is marijuana, the survey found. About 1 in 4 students said they’d used marijuana at least once in the past year. It was more common in older kids — about 1 in 17 high school seniors said they use marijuana every day.

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Nicotine vaping on rise among US teenagers: Survey. Pixabay

Overall, marijuana smoking is about the same level as it was the past few years. Vaping of marijuana rose, however.

More teens, however, are saying no to lots of other substances. Usage of alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, heroin and opioid pills all declined.

Experts say it’s not clear what’s behind those trends, especially since the nation is in the midst of the deadliest drug overdose epidemic ever.

“What is it that we’re doing right with teenagers that we’re not doing with adults?” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a federal agency that funds the Michigan study.

One leading theory is that kids today are staying home and communicating on smartphones rather than hanging out and smoking, drinking or trying drugs.

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In this Feb. 20, 2014 file photo, a customer exhales vapor from an e-cigarette at a store in New York. A growing number of e-cigarette and vaporizer sellers have started offering college scholarships as a way to get their brands listed on university websites. VOA

“Drug experimentation is a group activity,” Volkow said.

What about vaping? “Vaping mostly is an individual activity,” said David Jernigan, a Boston University researcher who tracks alcohol use.

The vaping explosion is a big worry, however. Health officials say nicotine is harmful to developing brains. Some researchers also believe vaping will make kids more likely to take up cigarettes, and perhaps later try other drugs.

Also Read: New Survey Shows Rise of Nicotine Vaping Among US Teenagers

So far that hasn’t happened, surveys show. But the Juul phenomenon is recent, noted Richard Miech, who oversees the Michigan survey.

If vaping does lead to cigarette use among teens, that may start to show up in the survey as early as next year, he added. (VOA)