When it comes to vaping, the good news and bad are locked in a tight race. The good news is that the list of countries banning flavoured e-cigarettes is growing — India just joined more than 20 countries than prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes or nicotine liquids — and many other countries, including the UAE, have restrictions on the smoking of e-cigarettes. But the bad news thrives too. There were seven teen deaths reported in the US linked to e-cigarettes, tragedies that jolted the New York state to announce a ban on almost all flavoured vaping products even as a US-government funded survey reveals that one in nine high school seniors vape nicotine near-daily.
These grim facts have all the makings of a new health problem, which, ironically, seems to be a spin off from the attempts to tackle a historically older global health scourge: cigarette smoking and its sky-high mortality rates.
Vaping is not just proving to be a non-solution, it is creating newer challenges, the most alarming of which is that even early year teens are taking to it lured by the sleek-looking apparatuses and the exotic flavours
If the argument is that in order to move away from a life-threatening addiction, smoking, it is desirable to take up an ostensibly less harmful habit, vaping, there is a huge flaw in this logic. Many varieties of vaping liquids still contain nicotine.
And nicotine, in any form, and any dosage, however small, is addictive. And even if the vaping liquids do not contain nicotine, they have other complex chemical compounds which when vaporised and inhaled are still capable of damaging the body, according to studies. As for the contention that vaping helps smokers to quit the habit, the World Health Organisation says there is insufficient evidence to back that hope.
Clearly, vaping is not just proving to be a non-solution, it is creating newer challenges, the most alarming of which is that even early year teens are taking to it lured by the sleek-looking apparatuses and the exotic flavours of liquids, including chocolate and sweet butterscotch, with or without nicotine. And this demographic, weaned so early on vaping, is likely to switch to smoking in their adult years, say experts. Add to this the infiltration of counterfeit vaping products in many countries and the dangers become more acute.
The way forward is to heed the growing concern of parents, doctors and experts who are increasingly viewing e-cigarettes not as smoking-cessation devices but potentially harmful products. When it comes to assessing the degrees of harm from nicotine, smoking or vaping, zero degree is the best option.