Nagpur pulmonologist Dr Sameer Arbat tells why govt. banned e-cigarettes

Dr Sameer Arbat | Sep 24, 2019 11:34

Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. It harms nearly every organ in your body, says Dr Sameer Arbat.
Dr Sameer Arbat

Dr Sameer Arbat currently working at KRIMS Hospital is an MD FCCP, young Interventional Pulmonologist from Nagpur, who’s the first doctor to have Central India’s only EBUS and Cryotherapy setup. He has many national and international awards and publications to his name and has performed more than 500 interventional procedures.

Union Cabinet on Wednesday announced a ban on the production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertisement of e-cigarettes in the country. Anybody found violating it would be imprisoned for up to one year or fined up to ₹1,00,000 or both for the first offence. The ordinance will need to be approved by Parliament when it meets in November.

If the thought of trying to quit smoking has crossed your mind, you’re not alone. Nearly seven out of ten smokers are trying to stop. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health – smoking harms nearly every organ in your body, including your heart and lungs. Nearly one-third of deaths from heart disease are the result of smoking and secondhand smoke.

You might be tempted to turn to electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) as a way to ease the transition from traditional cigarettes to not smoking at all. But is smoking e-cigarettes (also called vaping) better for you than using tobacco products? Can e-cigarettes help you to stop smoking once and for all?

A brief history of Nicotine

  • The tobacco plant is indigenous to the American continent and has been used as a medicine and stimulant for at least 2,000 years. Christopher Columbus is often thought to have discovered tobacco while exploring the America for the first time. The smoking of pipes and cigars spread quickly throughout the 1600s. The plant divided opinion when it was introduced to Europe and some saw tobacco as medicinal, while others saw it as toxic and habit-forming. Also, tobacco was first used as an insecticide in 1763. It was not until 1964 that the Surgeon General of the US published a study linking smoking withheart disease and lung cancer. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took until 1994 to officially recognise nicotine as a drug that produced dependency.

What are the dangers on health of using electronic cigarettes?

  1. The nicotine in e-liquids is readily absorbed from the lungs into the bloodstream and to the brain. The chemical changes in the brain caused by nicotine motivates the smoker to use nicotine again and again, despite risks to their health and well-being leading to addiction to e-cigarettes and even other drugs.
  2. E-cigarette vapor contains carcinogens and toxic chemicals, as well as potentially toxic metal nanoparticles that emit from the device itself. E-liquids contain high levels of nickel and chromium, which may come from the nichrome heating coils of the vaporising device. It also contains low levels of cadmium – a toxic metal – also found in cigarette smoke that can cause breathing problems and disease.

Dr Irfan Rahman, PhD, University of Rochester Medical Center, USA and his team studied on potential toxicity of inhaled flavorings in electronic nicotine delivery devices (ENDS) or e-cigarettes. They tested several common e-liquid flavorings. Their study revealed that the chemicals used to flavour e-cigarette liquids are toxic to white blood cells.

Kinds of e-cigarettes

 Can favored E-Cigarette liquid harm lungs even without nicotine?

  • E-cigarette liquids sweetened with flavorings like vanilla and cinnamon may harm the lungs even when they don’t contain nicotine, a US study suggests. Researchers examined what happened to monocytes, a type of white blood cell, upon exposure to flavoring chemicals used in popular e-cigarette liquids. None of the liquids contained nicotine, but the flavoring chemicals still appeared to increase biomarkers for inflammation and tissue damage, and many of them also caused cells to die. Over time, this type of cell damage can lead to wide range of lung problems including fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and asthma. Nicotine-free e-liquids have generally been considered safe; however, the impact of flavoring chemicals, especially on immune cells, has not been widely researched.

E-cigarettes as addictive as heroin, cocaine: Nagpur pulmonologist Dr Sameer Arbat

How harmful are conventional cigarettes in comparison to e-cigarettes

  • The health hazards of smoking cigarettes is no short list. Five minutes of smoking a cigarette causes 4,000 chemical compounds and 400 toxic substances to enter the body. With each puff, the body acts as a sponge that absorbs harmful substances. Most of these are carcinogenic compounds. Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body, not just lungs and oral cavity. Smokers are exposed to risk of bladder, cervix, colorectal cancer, blood cancer, kidney, liver and so on. Smokers are at greater risk for diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels like stroke and coronary heart disease. Smokers can have various lung diseases like COPD, ILD. It can be concluded that both conventional cigarettes and e-cigarettes are harmful for the body and none of the two can be considered as a safer alternative.

Also read: Tiger’s presence spreads panic in Nagpur’s popular schools campus area

Does smoking affect different people differently ?

  • Females are more succeptible to smoking hazards. Women who smoke are more likely than women who don’t smoke to have more irregular or painful periods. They can have low estrogen levels, which can lead to mood swings, fatigue, and vaginal dryness, go through menopause at a younger age and have worse symptoms. Women are more likely than men to develop severe COPD at younger ages and each year, more women than men die from COPD. Women smokers over the age of 35 have a slightly greater risk of dying from heart disease compared to men who smoke. Smoking is associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer. There are now more new cases of lung cancer in young women (age 30–49) than young men. Smoking can also affect a pregnant woman’s baby’s health before and after birth. Smoking increases risks for Preterm (early) delivery, Stillbirth (death of the baby before birth), low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (known as SIDS or crib death), orofacial clefts in infants. Smoking can also affect men’s sperm, which can reduce fertility and also increase risks for birth defects and miscarriage.

Are there any alternatives that maybe are not so harsh?

  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) can help relieve some of the physical withdrawal symptoms so that you can focus on the psychological (emotional) aspects of quitting.  NRT should only be used with a physician’s guidance. To quit smoking, you’ll need to enroll in a quit program or smoking cessation program. A pulmonologist can guide you for better prospects of quitting tobacco and prescribe you the right dosage and formulation of NRT.

The ideas and information expressed are solely by the columnist and not by Nation Next.