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What are E-cigarettes and Reason Government Banned Them

On Wednesday, the Union Cabinet approved the promulgation of the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertisement) Ordinance, 2019 with immediate effect. As a result, anyone violating it will be imprisoned for up to one year or fined up to ₹1,00,000 or both for the first offence. Storage of electronic-cigarettes shall also be punishable. Besides health concerns, the government is concerned that e-cigarettes can “seriously undermine and derail the government’s efforts to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use”. The ordinance will need to be approved by Parliament when it meets in November.

The decision to ban e-cigarettes is aimed at protecting the youth, the section that is most vulnerable to the health hazards of e-cigarettes.

“These novel products come with attractive appearances and multiple flavours and their use has increased exponentially and has acquired epidemic proportions in developed countries, especially among youth and children,” the government said in a statement.

The ban on e-cigarettes will help “protect population, especially the youth and children, from the risk of addiction through e-cigarettes”.

What are E-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are the most common form of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). These are basically devices that do not burn or use tobacco leaves. Instead, they vaporise a solution using a battery. This vapour is then inhaled by the user.

“The main constituents of the solution, in addition to nicotine when nicotine is present, are propylene glycol, with or without glycerol and flavouring agents,” the World Health Organisation says, adding that these solutions and emissions also contain some solutions that are considered to be “toxicants”.

In terms of shape and size, most e-cigarettes resemble ordinary cigarettes, cigars and smoking pipes, but of late brands have started experimenting with newer designs that may resemble whistles, pens etc.

How do E-cigarettes work?

Most e-cigarettes consist of four different components, including:

  • a cartridge or reservoir, which holds a liquid solution (e-liquid or e-juice) containing varying amounts of nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals
  • a heating element (atomizer)
  • a power source (usually a battery)
  • a mouthpiece that the person uses to inhale

In many e-cigarettes, puffing activates the battery-powered heating device, which vaporizes the liquid in the cartridge. The person then inhales the resulting aerosol or vapor (called vaping).

What are the health effects of e-cigarettes? Are they safer than tobacco cigarettes?

Some research suggests that e-cigarettes might be less harmful than cigarettes when people who regularly smoke switch to them as a complete replacement. But nicotine in any form is a highly addictive drug. Research suggests it can even prime the brain’s reward system, putting vapers at risk for addiction to other drugs.

Also, e-cigarette use exposes the lungs to a variety of chemicals, including those added to e-liquids, and other chemicals produced during the heating/vaporizing process. A study of some e-cigarette products found the vapor contains known carcinogens and toxic chemicals, as well as potentially toxic metal nanoparticles from the device itself. The study showed that the e-liquids of certain cig-a-like brands contain high levels of nickel and chromium, which may come from the nichrome heating coils of the vaporizing device. Cig-a-likes may also contain low levels of cadmium, a toxic metal also found in cigarette smoke that can cause breathing problems and disease. More research is needed on the health consequences of repeated exposure to these chemicals.

Can e-cigarettes help a person quit smoking?

Some people believe e-cigarettes may help lower nicotine cravings in those who are trying to quit smoking. However, e-cigarettes are not an FDA-approved quit aid, and there is no conclusive scientific evidence on the effectiveness of e-cigarettes for long-term smoking cessation. It should be noted that there are seven FDA-approved quit aids that are proven safe and can be effective when used as directed.

E-cigarettes haven’t been thoroughly evaluated in scientific studies. For now, not enough data exists on the safety of e-cigarettes, how the health effects compare to traditional cigarettes, and if they are helpful for people trying to quit smoking.

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