The cultivation of tobacco can be traced back to 600BC. As civilization played its role people went on to chewing tobacco and then started smoking tobacco filled cigarettes. Lately, a new concept of e-cigarettes has entered the current scenario. E-cigarettes are electronic, battery-operated, devices with the same fundamental concept as that of a regular cigarette.
Designed in the shape of a cigarette, cigar, tube or pen, it is different from a regular cigarette in the sense that it does not burn tobacco, rather people inhale aerosol. It contains nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, flavorings, and other chemicals. Since it does not contain tobacco and works by heating a liquid, what is released is considered smokeless.
It is a popular belief, especially among teens, that e-cigarettes are safer than normal cigarettes. Moreover, their easy availability and alluring advertisement have increased their appeal, particularly to teens. The question here is whether e-cigarettes do not cause severe health problems as conventional cigarettes do. Well, they do. Diseases such as lung cancer, breast cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and other serious diseases usually develop after years of smoking but vaping shows its destructive effects after just a year, possibly less. According to a report from CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 1,604 cases of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI) have been reported from 49 US states and thirty-four deaths have been confirmed in 24 states, all in 2019. While the cause of injury in all these cases is not certain but one thing common in all these cases is that patients report the use of e-cigarettes. Symptoms range from breathing difficulty, shortness of breath, and/or chest pain. Patients in some cases reported mild to moderate gastrointestinal illness including vomiting and diarrhea, or other symptoms such as fevers or fatigue. Mainly the liquid vaporizing solutions containing toxic metals and chemicals have adverse effects on the heart, lungs, and brain, causing cancer and other deadly diseases. The flavors in e-cigarettes such as diacetyl are associated with lung diseases.
So, it is clear that vaping does no benefit to anyone. Another myth is that it will help people quit smoking. Well, in actual fact, it does not. If one uses an e-cigarette to quit smoking, he should never go back to smoking. Studies have proved other nicotine products are better when it comes to quitting the habit of smoking. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved e-cigarettes as an alternative to reduce smoking. One study found that though e-cigarettes led to a higher percentage of people quitting smoking, nearly 80% of quitters were still vaping. Additionally, a study of adult smokers in Europe found those who used e-cigarettes were less likely to have stopped smoking than those who didn’t use e-cigarettes, rather they smoked more. Out of more than 800 people who said they were using e-cigarettes to help them quit traditional cigarette smoking, only nine percent reported having quit when asked a year later.
A BAN ON E-CIGARETTES IN INDIA: Recently, e-cigarettes are completely banned in India in response to the health risks posed by vaping and the perception of the youth that vaping is “cool”. It also fears that the consumption of e-cigarettes can undermine and de-rail its efforts to reduce the consumption of tobacco as when used by those who have never smoked conventional cigarettes before, this will serve as a gateway to the consumption of tobacco and other drugs. Consequently, anyone violating the ordinance (set to be approved in November) will be imprisoned for up to one year or has to pay a fine of Rs 1,00,000 or both. Even the storage of e-cigarettes is punishable. Juul, a company set to launch its e-cigarettes in India in late 2019 has faced a set back from the government ban on e-cigarettes even before its product was launched.
But, the story is not only based on morals. If we apply the theory of Baptist and Bootleggers we tend to see the commercial benefit in the facade of moral purpose. The Baptists, in this case, are the parents of school-goers and the concerned health professionals and the bootleggers are those who directly or indirectly benefit from the ban such as companies like ITC Ltd. selling conventional cigarettes and the government. Even though the cigarette market is small, the industry is dominated by this one firm ITC Ltd. who will benefit directly. The benefit is also shared by the government and state-owned companies such as LIC which together hold a 28.6% stake in ITC Ltd. Moreover, conventional cigarettes are heavily taxed in India, its consumption adding to government revenues.
The threat from e-cigarettes is not fully known yet but one serious threat is from its variation developed in the black market which is composed of harmful and prohibited substances apart from nicotine. The awareness of the health consequences of e-cigarettes is necessary to change the wrong idea of “coolness” in young minds. India is not the only country to ban e-cigarettes. The product has been completely banned in 25 countries including Brazil and Singapore. Market authorization for the product is required in 17 other countries. Any conclusion and subsequent banning at this time are not taken after extensive research. A lot of research is still required on the subject.
Some say that e-cigarettes pose no greater threat than a regular cigarette. In fact, they reduce the third party risk from passive smoking and are better than chewing tobacco. Concluding, more time and research should be given to prove the harmful effects of vaping and develop a framework if how to reduce the consumption of any kind of cigarette altogether.