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:
- What are e-Cigarettes?
- Concerns Raised by WHO Regarding e-Cigarettes
- 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.
- 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.
- 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