ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan National Heart Association (Panah) has urged the government to formulate a strategy to curb the use of e-cigarettes.

The association has warned that e-cigarettes contain chemicals that can cause a number of diseases, including heart disease and lung cancer.

“Dangerous chemical compounds from e-cigarette use are causing heart attacks, cancer, respiratory diseases and other dangerous diseases. The government should formulate a strategy to keep e-cigarettes out of the reach of the young generation,” Panah General Secretary Sanaullah Ghumman said before the media on Tuesday.

He said e-cigarettes were more dangerous that ordinary smoking because their use produces various toxic chemicals that are harmful to the human body.

“According to the American Lung Association, the harmful chemicals produced by the use of e-cigarettes cause irreparable damage to the lungs. In January 2018, a report based on more than 800 studies by the National Academy of Sciences found that e-cigarettes contain potentially toxic substances, and that young people who use e-cigarettes are at increased risk of cough, anxiety and asthma, including heart disease,” he said.

According to a research by the University of North Carolina, the two main ingredients in e-cigarettes, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, are hazardous for human cells, he said.

He said the government should formulate a strategy to prevent the use of e-cigarettes to protect the future of the youth and save lives.

Anti-tobacco activists have expressed concerns on the government’s announcement of a 25pc tax on the import of e-cigarettes.

The Human Development Foundation (HDF) along with other tobacco control activists in a statement said that the government’s decision to levy taxes on e-cigarettes is similar to legitimising its market in Pakistan.

HDF CEO Azhar Saleem said that the government should consider the long-term cost of the increased health burden caused by e-cigarettes outweighing the short terms benefits from taxation revenues from e-cigarettes and vaping devices.

He said this is an opportune time to learn from countries such as the United States, where a-cigarettes have become an addiction. More than 22 countries including India have banned the sale and use of e-cigarettes.

“We urge the government of Pakistan to devise policies to check the proliferation of these addictive products before the time runs out, to protect the citizens, especially the youth, from falling prey to these lethal products,” he said.

Agha Khan University Professor of Pulmonology Dr Javaid Khan said that there is a growing trend of using e-cigarettes, especially among the youth, in Pakistan, assuming these are safer alternatives to conventional cigarettes.

“This is a dangerous misconception as e-cigarettes pose significant health risks to users that are frighteningly similar to those of conventional cigarettes,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2020