BENGALURU: As the state mulls a ban on chewing tobacco products, it has also been making it costlier to use other tobacco items like cigarettes. That’s sure to make health experts happy.
But what has them worried still is the rising popularity of e-cigarettes, whose risks are still unknown.
Introduced in the market as an electronic nicotine delivery system to encourage people to quit smoking, an e-cigarette is a battery-operated tubular device that generates purified nicotine vapours. It does it without the tar and carbon monoxide that are part of the traditional ‘smoke producing’ cigarette.
“These devices are marketed as an alternative to smoking. But what they don’t tell people is that they contain nicotine in liquid form. They have a lithium battery which contains nicotine. How can this be a successful way to quit smoking?” asks Dr Riyaz Basha, professor in community medicine, Bangalore Medical College.
The savvy-looking devices attract many users, and come in different flavours such as strawberry, menthol and coffee.
“These flavours are mixed with nicotine and are hence used by many youngsters who argue that these are just flavoured vapours and not harmful. This is absolutely untrue,” says Dr Vishal Rao, surgical oncologist, part of the Karnataka Tobacco Control Project.
The device may cost anywhere between `300 to `4,000 and is easily available across online and offline platforms. They are available in local paan shops and certain pharmacies too, and are not monitored.
“Since they are not part of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, there is nobody to check how and where they are sold. There are no warning signs on the same and no age restrictions,” says Dr Basha.
Many prefer to use e-cigarettes as a form of tobacco control. “Since an e-cigarette is marketed to be a cigarette, is not a cigarette and can even be held like a cigarette, it has become more popular,” says Dr Rao. He says users don’t realise that they are not actually quitting smoking, but only replacing a cigarette with another nicotine product. “An e-cigarette is as addictive as an actual cigarette. Companies who market them don’t disclose this.”
With the Union Health Ministry and the World Health Organisation already waking up to the dangers that e-cigarettes pose, city health experts say it is time the state took note.
“The age of smoking has gone down and so has the age of those using e-cigarettes. People prefer them as they don’t emanate smoke, and nobody realises they are smoking. The state government should ban this or frame proper regulations which will indicate who can buy them and what its harmful effects are,” said Dr Basha.