Within the last five years, the use of e-cigarettes has increased from 29% to over 40% in Pakistan. Despite being aware of the health risks associated with these devices, most teenagers and adults are addicted to them. Teenagers have easier access to these devices due to the absence of adequate legislation and age restrictions.
Using e-cigarettes has become a trend among the younger generations who are either introduced to these devices by their peers or by the mass media. They believe that using e-cigarettes enhances social acceptability. The misperception that e-cigarette is a ‘safer’ or ‘healthier’ alternative has further prompted people to use them. Children as young as 12 years old are now using e-cigarettes, which is a cause for concern as research has shown that e-cigarette users are likely to become daily cigarette smokers in the future. Although Pakistan is lagging in research on e-cigarettes, a recent study by Aga Khan University and Multan Medical and Dental College should be an eye-opener for concerned authorities to revisit the matter and enforce legislation on the trade of these devices.
Pakistan already has a high rate of lung and mouth cancer due to the consumption of cigarettes and gutka, and e-cigarettes will further exacerbate the country’s health crises. The study concludes that the use of e-cigarettes is associated with a risk of dyspnea, lung cancer, chest pain and a range of other diseases. Among the participants, 6% individuals were found to have hypertension, 0.1% reported asthma and 35.4% had a positive history of anxiety, depression and other psychiatric illnesses. Perhaps, health authorities should include educational institutes and parents as stakeholders in the process to prevent the use of these devices among the younger generations. In the meantime, laws regarding the trade and promotion of e-cigarettes should be implemented to somewhat curb their usage.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2023.
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