e-ciggie, new fad to kick the butt

e-ciggie, new fad to kick the butt

Electronic cigarettes have become the latest fad for giving up the smoking habit. But experts warn there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes, marketed as a “less painful way” of quitting smoking, actually work. 

Still, more e-cigarettes are being sold in the City than before. According to Nikhil Thapar, CEO and founder of eSutta – a New Delhi-based online e-cigarette retail portal – the number of orders placed from Bangalore has doubled in two years. 

“Two years ago, we would get orders for 30-40 e-cigarettes a day from Bangalore. Now, we get 60,” he said. Although the product is still new in the country, it is steadily gaining acceptance in cities like Bangalore. “Mumbai and Delhi are two cities where the device is quite popular but Bangalore is gradually catching up,” Thapar said.

A retailer near MG Road, who did not want to be named, told this reporter that he sold at least 10-12 e-cigarettes every month, although the device was not as popular as other tobacco-weaning products. “I have noticed that mostly people use it on a short-term basis, but its consumption is certainly growing,” he added.

No conclusive evidence 

But no conclusive studies have been done in Karnataka or anywhere in the country on the efficacy of e-cigarettes as they are a relatively new phenomenon, according to Radheshyam Naik, consultant medical oncologist at HCG Hospital. The World Health Organisation says the “effectiveness and safety” of e-cigarettes cannot be “scientifically demonstrated”.

“A study is certainly needed to find out more. But as things stand, the efficacy of e-cigarettes as a way of quitting smoking is fairly low, which is why doctors usually don’t prescribe them to patients,” Naik explained. 

“Many people still use e-cigarettes, thinking it a fad and a so-called harmless activity.” 

Sale not regulated 

But proponents of e-cigarettes claim the device is clean as users inhale only the liquid nicotine minus the harmful substances such as carbon monoxide and tar. Upendra Bhojani from the Institute of Public Health, Bangalore, however, counters the argument, saying that even nicotine is harmful as it is highly addictive and could cause poisoning. 

A recent study by the US-based Centres for Disease Control and Prevention found that the number of complaints about e-cigarette related to poisoning has increased in the last two years. Countries such as Brazil, Canada and Singapore have banned the sale and use of e-cigarettes.

But in India, there are no specific regulations on the sale and use of e-cigarettes and as a result, substandard products enter the market and even children are exposed to them, according to Thapar. “There is definitely a need to standardise the content of e-cigarettes and subject it to quality control.”

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