Children, adolescents who use e-cigarettes twice as likely to smoke conventional ones later: WHO

There is growing evidence that e-cigarettes affects brain development in adolescents

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Thursday 29 July 2021
Children, adolescents who use e-cigarettes twice as likely to smoke conventional ones later: WHO

The electronic nicotine delivery systems’ (ENDS) use among children and adolescents increases the chance of their use of conventional cigarettes and other tobacco products in the future, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on July 27, 2021. 

ENDS affects brain development in adolescents and has a damaging impact on the cardiovascular and respiratory health of regular smokers and those who engage in dual use or delay overall quitting, the new WHO report claimed. 

The progress made by countries in the fight against the tobacco epidemic is threatened by the tobacco industry’s ongoing efforts to introduce new nicotine and tobacco products, it added. 

The “WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic 2021: Addressing new and emerging products,” presented data on e-cigarettes and other ENDS for the first time. 

As many as 84 countries currently lack safeguards to protect from unregulated proliferation of electronic smoking devices, the report showed.

“Currently, 32 countries have banned the sale of ENDS, covering 2.4 billion people. Another 79 have implemented partial measures to regulate the products, covering 3.2 billion people,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

Age restrictions on the sale of ENDS, however, have been adopted by only 69 countries, the report added. “There are approximately 16,000 unique e-cigarette flavours available in some markets, many of which are appealing to children”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO said:

Nicotine is highly addictive. Electronic nicotine delivery systems are harmful and must be better regulated.Where they are not banned, governments should adopt appropriate policies to protect their populations from the harms of electronic nicotine delivery systems, and to prevent their uptake by children, adolescents and other vulnerable groups.

Other findings of the report: 

  • Tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
  • Over 80 per cent of the world's 1.3 billion tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Encouraging progress seen around the world, with smoking prevalence among people aged over 15 years having fallen from 22.7 per cent to 17.5 per cent.

Some 5.3 billion people — four times over the 2007 levels — are now covered by at least one of the six tobacco ‘MPower’ control measures recommended by the WHO  

  1. Monitoring tobacco use and preventive measures
  2. Protecting people from tobacco smoke; offering help to quit
  3. Warning about the dangers of tobacco
  4. Enforcing bans on advertising
  5. Promotion and sponsorship
  6. Raising taxes on tobacco

Ethiopia, Gambia, Mauritania, Montenegro, Niger, Nigeria, Qatar, United States of America, adopted large graphic pack warnings, said WHO. “Denmark, Georgia, Morocco, Netherlands, Portugal and Sri Lanka moved to the best-practice group by levying taxes that comprise at least 75 per cent of the retail prices.”

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommended May 31, 2019 a complete ban on e-cigarettes and other ENDS. E-cigarettes and other such devices contained not only nicotine solution but also harmful ingredients such as flavouring agents and vaporisers, the council noted in a paper.

WHO urged governments to do more to implement regulations to stop non-smokers from starting, prevent renormalisation of smoking in the community and protect future generations.

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