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Over the past couple of years, e-cigarettes and vapourisers have grown in popularity despite the ban on their import, sale and distribution in Singapore. Advocates for the product claim that they are a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes and can be used to help smokers quit. Youths are also being attracted to it, thinking that it is cool and safe. This is, however, a myth as e-cigarettes are not risk-free.
E-cigarettes and vapourisers are battery operated devices that release nicotine by heating up chemicals or e-liquids and turning them into vapour, which users then inhale. The main difference from regular cigarettes is the absence of tobacco leaves.
Part of its appeal, especially to youths, is the variety of interesting forms such as cigarettes, pipes and even nondescript everyday items such as pens and USB memory sticks; e-liquids are also offered in a variety of flavours, from apple to mint or even a cocktail-mix of flavours.
Related: Get the Facts Right About Tobacco Products
Despite its relatively harmless-looking exterior and playful marketing, the main function of e-cigarettes is essentially still to dispense nicotine, which is not only addictive but causes harmful side effects such as a decrease in appetite, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and even sweating, nausea and diarrhoea in more extreme cases.
In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes and vapourisers also contain other substances that increase the risk of cancer. These include formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, as well as potentially toxic metal nanoparticles from the vaporising mechanism in e-cigarettes.
Related: Smoking Increases Your Risk of Diabetes
While many e-cigarette retailers market their products as an aid that can help existing smokers to quit smoking, e-cigarettes are for many youths their first foray into the world of smoking. Since e-cigarettes and vapourisers are widely available online, albeit illegally (do note that penalties for purchasing e-cigarettes from overseas are harsh and can incur fines of up to $10,000), many youths end up experimenting with e-cigarettes, which may subsequently lead to real cigarette use.
Studies have shown that youths who try vaping (the act of using a vapouriser) are more likely to pick up a cigarette if they haven’t done so before. A recent study done in the US showed that students who used e-cigarettes by the time they started 9th grade (15 years old) were more likely than others to start smoking traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Related: Smoking — Habit or Addiction?
Besides the known harmful effects of e-cigarettes, dabbling in an unregulated industry also exposes you to many other risks.
The list of ingredients, for example, can vary widely between different manufacturers. Without a regulatory body to monitor the ingredients that go into a vaping device, you cannot be certain what harmful chemicals might be contained within the e-liquids.
Furthermore, because e-liquids come in a concentrated form, users may expose themselves to potentially toxic levels of nicotine when refilling the e-cartridges. Accidents are not only restricted to consumption though, with a growing number of cases of vapourisers and e-cigarettes exploding and catching fire being reported in the media.
Finally, while most e-cigarettes on the market today contain nicotine and flavoured chemicals, it is worrying to think that these same devices could potentially be used in the future as a way to dispense harder and more harmful drugs.
In conclusion, because e-cigarettes have only been on the market for around 10 years, more long-term studies still need to be conducted. What you can be certain, however, is that e-cigarettes are illegal and come with a host of already identified negative effects, as well as further unknown ones.
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This article was last reviewed on
Monday, January 29, 2018
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