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What are e-Cigarettes?


Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has urged governments to treat e-cigarettes similarly to tobacco and ban all flavors, threatening cigarette companies’ bets on smoking alternatives.


GS II: Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are e-Cigarettes?
  2. Concerns Raised by WHO Regarding e-Cigarettes
  3. Arguments in Favor of e-Cigarettes

What are e-Cigarettes?

  • e-Cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid into an aerosol for inhalation and exhalation.
  • The liquid typically includes nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, flavorings, and other chemicals.
  • These devices, also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) or electronic non-nicotine delivery systems (ENNDS), come in various types.

Concerns Raised by WHO Regarding e-Cigarettes

  • Effectiveness: E-cigarettes are not proven effective at the population level for quitting tobacco use, and evidence suggests adverse health effects.
  • Marketing and Accessibility: Aggressive marketing, especially targeting young people, combined with inadequate regulations, raises significant concerns.
  • Global Regulations: Thirty-four countries ban e-cigarette sales, 88 have no minimum age restrictions, and 74 lack regulations for these products.
Recruitment and Trapping of Youth
  • Early Age Usage: Children and young people are at risk of early e-cigarette use, potentially leading to nicotine addiction.
  • Marketing Influence: Aggressive marketing, coupled with lax regulations, contributes to the recruitment of young users.
  • Global Trends: Youth e-cigarette use rates surpass those of adults in all WHO regions.
Alarming Trends in Specific Regions
  • Canada: E-cigarette use among 16–19-year-olds doubled between 2017–2022.
  • England (UK): The number of young e-cigarette users tripled in the past three years.
Health Risks and Unknowns
  • Long-term Effects: While the long-term health impact is not fully understood, e-cigarettes produce toxic substances linked to cancer, heart, and lung disorders.
  • Developmental Risks: E-cigarette use can affect brain development, cause learning disorders in young people, and harm fetal development in pregnant women.
Addictive Nature of Nicotine
  • Highly Addictive: E-cigarettes with nicotine are highly addictive, posing health risks to users and bystanders.
  • Counteracting Addiction: Concerns arise about countering nicotine addiction, particularly among young users.

Arguments in Favor of e-Cigarettes

Harm Reduction Strategy:
  • Proponents contend that e-cigarettes provide a harm reduction strategy in comparison to traditional tobacco products.
  • While containing nicotine, they lack many of the harmful carcinogens found in conventional cigarettes, making them a potentially safer alternative.
  • Seen as a viable option for adult smokers who may be unwilling or unable to quit nicotine use completely.
Reduced Carcinogens:
  • E-cigarettes are argued to be devoid of numerous harmful carcinogens present in traditional cigarettes, reducing the health risks associated with tobacco consumption.
  • This aspect makes e-cigarettes a potentially less harmful option for adults who choose to continue using nicotine.
Economic Benefits:
  • An economic argument suggests that legalizing and regulating e-cigarettes could result in significant tax revenue for governments.
  • Taxing e-cigarettes would not only generate revenue but also provide authorities with a means to control and monitor their usage, potentially curbing illicit markets.
Consumer Choice and Access:
  • Supporters emphasize the importance of consumer choice, advocating for the availability of alternatives in the market.
  • Adults who struggle with traditional smoking cessation methods should have the option to choose less harmful nicotine delivery systems according to proponents.
  • The argument centers on providing choices to adult smokers seeking alternatives to conventional tobacco products.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024