E-cigarettes: A Trendy, Addictive Alternative or a Public Health Hazard Among Youth in Mumbai?

The popularity of e-cigarettes among teenagers has sparked debate over how best to regulate these products to protect public health.

E-cigarettes: A Trendy, Addictive Alternative or a Public Health Hazard Among Youth in Mumbai?
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In a recent crackdown by Mumbai police's Anti-Narcotics Unit (ANC), four paan shops were raided in February, resulting in cases filed against 12 individuals, including Shivkumar Tiwari (Mucchad Paanwala). However, the shop owners were not detained for selling paan, which was the original target of the raid initially. Instead, they were detained for selling e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine, a highly toxic chemical that can negatively impact any organ of the body.

Despite being promoted as a "safer" alternative, weaning tool, or convenient in locations where smoking is prohibited, e-cigarettes are not without their drawbacks.

Dr. Prakash C. Gupta, the director of Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health, claimed that businesses used the internet to target teenagers, who use them more frequently than adults. E-cigarettes are widely available in stores, especially those close to schools and colleges, and the majority of the students who use them are between 13 and 14 years old.

The assertion that e-cigarettes are less hazardous than traditional cigarettes is completely false, Dr. Gupta added.

Jagdish Indalkar, Principal of Lion M P Bhuta Sion Saravajnik School near Dharavi, stated that vaping is not only popular among certain socioe-conomic classes but these e-cigarette pens were found in school bags, and students mentioned that the e-liquid was freely accessible and sold in neighbourhood paan tapris for 300 for 100 ml.

According to a recent research paper, 18 out of 24 school kids interviewed reported using e-cigarettes and chewing areca nut. Sixteen students frequently used marijuana hookahs, areca nuts, and e-cigarettes.

Presently, there are more than 460 brands and more than 7,700 flavours of electronic cigarettes, promoted to young people by showcasing the flavours on media platforms, particularly social media. The article claims that there are 75 businesses in India that offer e-cigarettes online.

Young adults are attracted to e-cigarettes because of their easy availability, various flavours, and the perception that they are healthier than traditional cigarettes. A 16-year-old arts student from Birla College Kalyan claimed that e-cigarettes had less nicotine and made them feel better. Another 20-year-old individual mentioned that e-cigarettes were easy to carry and had a wide range of flavours, making them appear “cool”.

Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi, a head and neck cancer surgeon and the deputy director of the Tata Memorial Institute's Department of Cancer Epidemiology, has fought to have e-cigarettes outlawed in India.

Social media, peer pressure and intrusiveness have contributed to the rise in e-cigarette consumers, especially among teenagers.

A counsellor mentioned a student's experience with e-cigarettes and how she broke the habit and is now doing well in school. Children need to be taught about the risks of e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes cost between INR 500 and INR 2,500 in the market and are widely available in the second-hand market for INR 300 to INR 1,000. The majority of e-cigarettes cost between INR 500 and 2,500 in the market.

For those unversed, Nicotine, a highly dangerous and addictive substance, is present in e-cigarettes, and the absence of tobacco does not make them safe.

The highest nicotine that doctors recommend is two mg for the withdrawal phase, but e-cigarette cartridges contain 10 mg of nicotine, which is not endorsed by any medical organisation. Lethal dose of nicotine is 30 mg, and even in its purified form, it is poisonous to the heart, brain, and kidneys and carcinogenic like tobacco. Misinformation on social media about e-cigarette safety should be known by young adults.

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