The rise in e-cigarette usage has brought to light a concerning new health condition known as "vape tongue," which is causing users to lose their sense of taste and experience constant thirst. Medical professionals are warning that while this condition is reversible, cutting down on e-cigarette usage is essential to prevent its development.
The Emergence of Vape Tongue
E-cigarettes, or vapes, have gained popularity as a seemingly safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. However, doctors have observed a new health issue arising from their use - "vape tongue." Users affected by this condition report a loss of taste sensation and an ongoing feeling of thirst. While the condition can be reversed, it highlights the potential risks associated with e-cigarette consumption.
Visionary Ban by the Indian Government
Three years ago, the Indian government took a significant step in promoting preventive healthcare by implementing a ban on electronic cigarettes. This decision was prompted by a wealth of evidence indicating that these devices were leading to a new type of nicotine addiction, even among non-smokers. The appeal of e-cigarettes, with their enticing flavors and appealing designs, made teens particularly vulnerable to their allure.
Concerns about E-Cigarette Availability
In India, the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes have been officially banned. However, a study by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and WHO-India reveals that the availability of e-cigarettes is still prevalent online and through various point-of-sale sources. Shockingly, the study found several e-stores, both national and international, selling these devices within the country. Additionally, 189 social media influencers were identified promoting e-cigarettes, further contributing to their availability.
Challenges of Enforcing the Ban
Despite the ban, enforcement remains a challenge as many internet electronic cigarette vendors (IEVs) continue to sell vaping devices in India. The study found that 16 out of 45 identified IEVs were non-compliant with the legislation introduced in 2019. This indicates a lack of strict measures in place to prevent the illegal sale of e-cigarettes, allowing their accessibility to persist.
Debate Over Safety and Usage
Interestingly, some quarters have argued in favor of legalizing the sale of e-cigarettes, claiming that they are safer than traditional cigarettes. However, medical experts like Prof Monika Arora, Vice President of PHFI, Gurgaon, raise concerns about the surreptitious use of e-cigarettes among teens, not only in private schools but also in government schools. This indicates a growing trend of e-cigarette usage among young individuals, potentially leading to long-term health consequences.
Link to Increased Risk of Heart Attacks
Adding to the concerns, a separate study published in the International Journal of Public Health in 2020 found that daily use of e-cigarettes is independently associated with an increased risk of heart attacks. This further emphasizes the need for strict regulations and public awareness regarding the potential health risks of e-cigarettes.
Health problems caused by e-cigarettes
1. Nicotine Addiction: E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Regular use of e-cigarettes by teenagers can lead to nicotine addiction, making it difficult for them to quit and increasing the risk of transitioning to traditional cigarette smoking.
2. Negative Impact on Brain Development: Adolescence is a critical period for brain development. Nicotine exposure during this stage can harm the developing brain, affecting attention, learning, and memory functions.
3. Respiratory Issues: Vaping can lead to respiratory problems such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. The inhalation of harmful chemicals and fine particles present in e-cigarette aerosols can damage the lungs and exacerbate pre-existing respiratory conditions.
4. Cardiovascular Effects: Studies have shown that vaping can increase heart rate and blood pressure in teenagers, putting additional strain on the cardiovascular system and potentially leading to long-term heart health issues.
5. Exposure to Harmful Chemicals: E-cigarette aerosols contain harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, acrolein, and acetaldehyde, which can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat and may have long-term health effects.
6. Risk of Accidental Poisoning: The liquid used in e-cigarettes often contains high concentrations of nicotine, and accidental ingestion or exposure to this liquid can be toxic, especially to young children.
7. Gateway to Smoking: There is evidence suggesting that teenagers who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes later on, potentially leading to a lifetime of tobacco addiction and associated health problems.
8. Affects Mental Health: Teenagers who vape may be at an increased risk of experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. The addictive nature of nicotine can exacerbate these problems.
9. Injuries from Exploding Devices: Reports of e-cigarette devices exploding and causing injuries have been documented, mainly due to improper use or faulty batteries.
In conclusion, the health problems caused by e-cigarettes on teens are a serious concern, ranging from nicotine addiction to potential harm to the developing brain and respiratory system. It is crucial to raise awareness about these risks and implement effective measures to prevent vaping among teenagers and protect their overall health and well-being.
The emergence of "vape tongue" and the associated risks of e-cigarette usage underline the importance of addressing this public health concern. The availability of e-cigarettes online and through point-of-sale sources despite the ban necessitates stricter enforcement measures to protect the health of individuals, particularly the youth. As research continues to shed light on the potential dangers of e-cigarettes, it is crucial for policymakers, health authorities, and society as a whole to work together in combating this growing issue and promoting safer alternatives for those seeking to quit smoking.