By Yawar Abbas
ISLAMABAD, May 9 (APP): In light of recent research, health experts have started to take a closer look at the potential harmful effects of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, seeing as possible gateway to smoking, which were considered as a safe alternative to smoking.
Recent surveys have indicated that more minors and young adults were using e-cigarettes in Pakistan. This increasing use of nicotine products is becoming a cause of concern for public health experts as the trend of e-cigarette is gradually increasing in Pakistani youth in cities like Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi in middle and high school students and young adults between 18-24 years of age.
According to a public health expert, Dr. Sobia Faisal,while the product was advertised as an alternative to quit smoking; actually it was often the first nicotine product tried among youth today,
“The major concern is looking at the youth population. For the past two to three years, e-cigarette use has surpassed the use of traditional cigarettes among the youth,” she said.
“Owing to use of e-cigarettes, they are now picking up nicotine products.”
Another concern some health experts have about e-cigarettes is their potential for encouraging smoking among the youth.
Dr. Sobia said the youth profile of those who used e-cigarettes show an opposite trend they were going from vaping to smoking cigarettes or cigars.
“One main concern is that they have
never used cigarettes, so e-cigarettes are bringing in more nicotine users
among the youth population,” she said and added, “The idea that it will help youth quit smoking is not true.”
Dr Wasim Khawaja, a public health
expert at Pakistan Institute of Health Sciences (PIMS) said that it was
observed that much of the youth population was using both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes.
“There is increasing dual use of combustible tobacco and picking up e-cigarettes, and they don’t quit combustible tobacco they use both simultaneously.” Because of these concerns, mostly health professionals avoided to recommend e-cigarettes as a means of quitting smoking, Dr Khawaja said.
“It is an emerging issue that needs
public debate. There was a need to create awareness among parents and lawmakers on the use of the product and about its harms,” Dr Khawaja said.
National Coordinator, Coalition for Tobacco Control in Pakistan (CTC-Pakistan), a coalition of 270 NGOs working against tobacco use across the country, Khurram Hashmi said that the tobacco industry claimed that smokers were their actual audience but, they mainly targeted youth of this country.
He said as there was no proper research or data about e-cigarettes, so the main focus should be on creating awareness among parents, youth and open market sellers of e-cigarette products in order to dispel the impression that the product was actually that of tobacco .
He floated the suggestion that the quarters concerned should regulate the product under Drugs Act and allow it only under medical supervision just for purpose of quitting tobacco or as remedy for tobacco users who wanted to quit smoking.
Hashmi warned that there should be check on youth as the use of this product increased their confidence of using regular cigarette in front of their parents.
He advised, being drug intake device, e-cigarret should be only used
under supervision of medical experts as the illiterate shopkeepers did not know the required quantity of nicotine and that they considered it as purely tobacco product.
As documented through numerous medical studies, nicotine adversely affects the heart, reproductive system, lungs and kidney and is believed to contribute to lung and other cancers and diabetes.
Nicotine was toxic and was used in insecticides until the practice was banned in many countries, Dr Sharif Astori, a medical practitioner at Federal Government Polyclinic (FGPC) said.
He said while some people might use e-cigarettes to step down from the nicotine levels in traditional, combustable cigarettes, research has shown teens and even college students who were previously non-smokers were picking up related products and becoming addicted to nicotine.
“E-cigarettes are marketed as a less harmful alternative for longtime cigarette smokers, he said and added, “but, what we are seeing its increased use among those who may never have smoked before, particularly our youth,” Dr. Astori said.
Nayyar Abbas, a father of young e-cigarette user said “I am familiar with the tactics of original cigarette industry which marketed e-cigarettes as cool products. This strategy
is being used to sell this new product in a new device to the next generation.”
“All cigarette manufacturers that are now in the e-cigarette business say they are only marketing their product to existing smokers, but actually they are deceiving the parents and users, he added.
He further said that they were creating an addiction that could last a lifetime with health risks that are known and unknown to existing youth and coming generations ,
He underlined the need to create awareness about the e-cigarettes among the parents and the youth .Moreover, he said ,youth needed to be educated about the product.
He said there should be a friendly environment between the parents and the youth so that the parents could talk about e-cigarette use with their children.