Chennai: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman's announcement on the ban of e-cigarettes(electronic cigarettes) has evoked a mixed response from the medical community, who say that the move might possibly increase cigarette dependence amongst users.
“The main difference between cigarettes and e-cigarettes is that presence of tobacco. E-cigarettes use nicotine(an addictive drug) and a number of other chemicals to stimulate smoking sans tobacco. It definitely has advantages over normal cigarettes as it prevents tobacco-related diseases,” says Dr Imran, head of emergency services, Parvathy hospital. With the youth picking up on the practice of ‘vaping’, he says that the ban might prove effective in curbing nicotine usage in the nation but remains sceptical of its immediate success. “We should wait and see if the ban has the desired impact. There is a chance that the youth might switch to other nicotine products like nicotine gums,” he adds.
Dr Manimaran, head of department of pulmonology medicine, MIOT hospitals welcomed the ban and said the government should also ensure that such products do not emerge in the black market. Speaking on the ‘increasing trend’ of nicotine usage among youth population, he says, E-cigarettes are less harmful and when first introduced, it was seen as a welcome alternative to traditional cigarettes. Today there are more than 400 brands of them, in over 150 flavours. The nicotine and the flavours are extremely addictive and are slowly becoming a huge threat.“E-cigarettes are falsely marketed to be safe for use. The ban is much welcome as it will reduce the accessibility and availability of the addictive product,” says Dr Bhoopathi, head of department of plastic surgery, Stanley medical college and hospital. Dr Shanthi of Doctors' Association for Social Equality is however cynical of the ban and raises some serious questions. “I welcome this ban whole-heartedly. But tell me, will banning e-cigarettes without banning ci
garettes, a product many times more harmful, solve the problem?”, she asks. “Contrary to belief, this could increase the smoking rate by a huge multitude,” he adds. She also suspects the hand of tobacco companies behind this unprecedented move. “On a positive note, e-cigarettes promote a false sense of security. They contain other toxic chemicals which can cause respiratory issues and some forms of cancer. Also, the nicotine content and chemicals used in the e-cigarettes differs from brand to brand, which makes it difficult to ascertain if it is safe for use as well as its health effects on users.” she adds.
When asked about a solution to the problem of drug dependence, she reflects, “Smoking, alcohol addiction and drug addiction are all social problems, which means the solution to them lies with society. People resort to such products to divert themselves from reality. If the government is able to zero in on the problems at the grass-root level, which are responsible for dependence on drugs in the first place, that will be the real game-changer.”
She also says if the basic needs of the Indian youth such as employment and social security are met, there are high chances that the ‘drug-addiction culture’ in the nation will come down.