World No Tobacco Day 2020: E-cigarettes are not as safe or harmless as you may think

We all go through that age – the one where we are introduced to smoking. Many don’t realise it, but it is indeed a crucial one. It is at this point in life that many of us realise whether smoking is for us or not. Unfortunately, for many, the choice is pro-smoking or pro-tobacco consumption. It is commonly considered a ‘de-stressor’ and a ‘cool’ habit. What is not highlighted is that tobacco consumption is an addiction. A debilitating habit that can cause many severe ailments from cancer to asthma to deterioration of the body.

What smoking does to the body

When smoking, chemicals are inhaled and they circulate throughout our body, getting absorbed into our bloodstream and mutating along the way. This is dangerous and very unadvisable.

Every organ, and not just our lungs, is affected by smoking. The American Lung Association reveals that there are over 7,000 chemical toxins in cigarettes. You may not see or feel the harm being done to your body immediately but it is there. It’ll make its impact known gradually and when it finally does, some of the damage caused may be irreversible.

When the requisite amount of tobacco is not consumed, it can lead to physical symptoms like sweating, heart palpitations, headaches and nausea. But that’s not all, there are psychological symptoms as well, like irritation, mood swings and anger.

Quitting is not easy, but it is very important.

The new smoking trend

Nowadays, there is a new problem with smoking. Cigarettes are being replaced by new, and possibly more potent, devices such as vapes and e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes and vape pens use a battery to heat a special liquid into an aerosol that users inhale. It's not just harmless water vapour, though. The "e-juice" that fills the cartridges usually contain nicotine (which is extracted from tobacco), propylene glycol, flavourings and other chemicals.

Studies have found that even e-cigarettes claiming to be nicotine-free contain trace amounts of nicotine. Additionally, when the liquid present heats up, more toxic chemicals are formed. The worst part is, not too much information is available about them yet. It is difficult to say what exactly would cause illness. It could be related to nicotine or the other chemicals and their by-products.

The effects of vaping are:

  • Predominantly, breathlessness

  • Chest pain

  • Diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting

  • Fatigue

  • Lung damage even without the toxins of cigarettes

  • Acid reflux and insulin resistance

E-cigarettes can have considerable cardiovascular effects such as oxidative stress, inflammation, with a potential predisposition to atherosclerosis, vascular dysfunction and platelet aggregation. These effects have been linked to nicotine and other chemicals and can lead to:

  • Increased heartbeat, blood pressure and can also cause cardiac arrhythmia

  • Increased risk to heart attacks

The effects of e-cigarettes on long-term cardiovascular health are inconclusive, but concerning. So far, e-cigarettes have been found to be associated with various adverse effects including significant risk to heart diseases. With an increasing list of ill effects being discovered and even a few deaths, they have been banned in many countries, including India.

Inconclusive evidence does not mean that they are safe. They aren’t. Consumption of any tobacco product in any form is harmful and should not be a staple in our lives. Smoking is a sure-shot way of causing irreversible damage to our body.