WHO calls for ban on flavoured vapes; 6 ways e-cigarettes can damage health | Health

Highlighting the dangers of vaping or e-cigarettes, The World Health Organization (WHO) today has called for governments to treat them similarly to tobacco and ban all flavours and take urgent action. WHO said there is insufficient evidence that the e-cigarette use helped smokers quit and they can instead lead to nicotine addiction among children and young people. It may be noted that vapes are already prohibited in India. (Also read | Vaping: Lighting up, stubbing out)

WHO said there is insufficient evidence that the e-cigarette use helped smokers quit and they can instead lead to nicotine addiction among children and young people.(Shutterstock)

“Kids are being recruited and trapped at an early age to use e-cigarettes and may get hooked to nicotine,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, urging countries to implement strict measures. “I urge countries to implement strict measures to prevent uptake to protect their citizens, especially their children and young people.”

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E-cigarettes have toxic substances which can cause cancer and increase risk of heart and lung disorders. They can also affect brain development and lead to learning disorders in young people. It can also adversely affect the development of the foetus in pregnant women.

Ways vaping can harm the body

Even brief exposure to e-cigarette content on social media can be associated with increased intention to use these products, as well as more positive attitudes toward e-cigarettes.

“E-cigarettes, despite their sleek look and claims of being a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, come with a multitude of harmful effects,” says Dr Kuldeep Kumar Grover, Head of Critical Care and Pulmonology, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram, as he gives a breakdown of the key risks associated with vaping:

1. Nicotine dependence: Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, the highly addictive substance found in traditional cigarettes. Nicotine dependence can lead to cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and difficulty quitting.

2. Affects brain development: Nicotine is particularly harmful to the developing brains of adolescents and young adults, impacting memory, learning, and attention.

3. Lung damage – EVALI (e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury): This serious condition can cause inflammation, scarring, and even death. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain.

Long-term lung problems: E-cigarette aerosol contains harmful chemicals like diacetyl, which has been linked to bronchiolitis obliterans, a serious lung disease. Vaping can also worsen existing lung conditions like asthma.

4. Cardiovascular disease: E-cigarettes can damage the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.

5. Mental health: Nicotine use can worsen anxiety and depression symptoms.

6. Exposure to second-hand aerosol: E-cigarette aerosol contains nicotine and other harmful chemicals that can harm bystanders, especially children and pregnant women.

“Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, have raised concerns due to their potential harmful effects on health. One major issue is the presence of harmful chemicals in the e-liquids used in these devices. The inhalation of these chemicals, such as nicotine, formaldehyde, and acrolein, can lead to respiratory problems and adverse cardiovascular effects. Moreover, the long-term impact of e-cigarette use is still under investigation, but emerging evidence suggests potential links to lung diseases. The inhalation of fine particles and flavoring agents in e-cigarettes may contribute to lung inflammation and compromise respiratory function. Additionally, the high concentration of nicotine in some e-cigarettes can lead to addiction, especially among young users, potentially serving as a gateway to traditional tobacco use. Furthermore, the heating element in e-cigarettes can produce harmful byproducts, including heavy metals like lead. The exposure to these substances may pose risks to overall health and contribute to the development of various health issues,” says Dr Samir Garde, Director of Dept of Pulmonology and Lung Transplant, Global Hospitals, Parel.

“E-cigarettes are often appealing to youth, and their use has become a significant public health concern. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can harm brain development and may lead to long-term cognitive and behavioral effects. There is concern that vaping might serve as a gateway to traditional cigarette smoking, especially among young people who may start with e-cigarettes and later transition to combustible tobacco products,” says Dr Nidhin Mohan, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Narayana Health City, Bangalore.

“E-cigarettes often contain nicotine, an addictive substance. Regular use can lead to the development of nicotine dependence, making it challenging for users to quit. Vaping has been linked to respiratory problems. Inhaling the aerosolized liquid, often containing nicotine, flavourings, and other chemicals, may contribute to lung inflammation, irritation, and potentially long-term damage. The long-term health effects of vaping are still not fully understood, as e-cigarettes are a relatively recent phenomenon. Continuous research is needed to assess the potential risks over extended periods of use. E-cigarette liquids may contain various chemicals, including propylene glycol, glycerin, and flavorings. The heating process can lead to the formation of potentially harmful byproducts. Inhaling these substances may pose health risks, although the extent is not yet fully known,” adds Dr Mohan.

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