THE use of e-cigarettes, commonly known as vaping, is rapidly increasing, particularly among the young. A recent study has revealed that nearly 50 per cent of college students in Karachi are using e-cigarettes. This is despite the fact that the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Pakistan Chest Society, and other professional organisations worldwide have identified vaping as a significant public health concern.

The risks associated with e-cigarettes are many, especially for adolescents. These include skyrocketing rates of nicotine addiction, increased vulnerability to lung injury, potential cognitive function impairment, and an elevated risk of transitioning to traditional combustible cigarettes. Additionally, some vaping liquids contain marijuana, further increasing the risk of adverse impacts on the development of neurological functions in adolescents.

The proliferation of novel, innovative devices and appealing flavours that are effectively marketed to the young have contributed to the exponential rise in vaping rates in the country. Developing effective strategies to prevent non-smokers from starting to use these products is crucial in curbing this rapidly growing form of nicotine addiction in Pakistan. Currently, there are no laws regulating vaping, and numerous shops are seen operating on every street.

The tobacco industry markets e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking. However, the evidence on relapse to smoking and continued dual use of e-cigarettes raises serious concerns. Additionally, non-smokers using e-cigarettes may increase their risk of starting traditional combustible cigarettes.

The government — bothe federal and provincial­ — should take the health of our younger generation seriously by enacting measures to control the increasing prevalence of vaping.

Prof Javaid Khan
President, Pakistan Chest Society (Sindh)
Karachi

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2024

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