The haze of smoke: Even as regulatory bodies approve vaping, the challenge of quitting smoking is not easy

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November 07, 2021 1:00 AM

A 2021 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates an estimated 2.06 million US middle and high school students still use e-cigarettes.

It is quite welcomed by many as appropriate to help adult smokers reduce harm as well as discourage children from using these products.It is quite welcomed by many as appropriate to help adult smokers reduce harm as well as discourage children from using these products.

This October, the US FDA gave the nod to three companies to sell non-flavoured e-cigarettes. One of them is British American Tobacco for Vuse Solo e-cigarettes and tobacco-flavoured pods. Vuse and Juul are among the most popular e-cigarettes brands.

A 2021 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates an estimated 2.06 million US middle and high school students still use e-cigarettes. After a cloud on sale of e-cigarettes for many years, the health regulatory body FDA has recognised that these products can help adult smokers in reducing smoking associated risk and harm. The permission to allow sale has been welcomed by millions of vapers across the world who have switched from smoking to e-cigarettes as a harm reduction measure. The FDA has accepted the data submitted which demonstrates benefit to adult smokers who switch to vaping — either completely or in significant measure — by reducing their exposure to harmful chemicals. It has chosen to regulate the marketing, advertising and composition details of the e-cigarettes as opposed to banning their sale altogether. It is quite welcomed by many as appropriate to help adult smokers reduce harm as well as discourage children from using these products.

Association for Vapers India (AVI), a consumer group focusing on reducing tobacco related harm, also supports the decision. “India factors in the position of the US and UK authorities while firming its policy in matters of public health, seen most recently in pandemic response and vaccine approvals. Now that both the countries have given regulatory nods to vaping products, and recognised them as lower risk and ‘appropriate for protection of public health’, the Indian government should follow suit and reverse the vaping ban. The ban is causing damage to India’s 110 million smokers who have been denied a less harmful substitute, especially when smoking is leading to so many deaths in our country, far more than Covid,” says Samrat Chowdhery, AVI director.

The sale of e-cigarettes is prohibited in India by a law passed by the Parliament in November 2019. Many feel e-cigarettes or vapes have been consistently shown to be significantly (up to 95%) less harmful than combustible cigarettes. Smoking is one habit that has its root in biological, psychological and social factors. And nicotine is a dangerous addictive chemical that adversely affects the heart, reproductive system, lungs, kidneys, etc. Many studies have consistently demonstrated its carcinogenic potential. The only other known use of nicotine has been as an insecticide since the 17th century. While most solutions are focussing on helping the smokers to shift to Nicotine replacement therapy (NRTs), E-cigarettes or medications that will reduce ingestion of nicotine content, very few approach smoking as a habit, and there is no understanding of triggers in the majority of the products available.

Gurseet Singh, founder, Smotect, an organisation that offers holistic approach to quit smoking, caters to the biological, psychological and social factors of smoking. “FDA proposes that there is no direct cause and effect between consumption of nicotine and life expectancy. NRT and E cigarettes are on the lowest continuum of risk whereas combusted cigarettes are at the highest. But FDA has said nothing about the addictive component in nicotine, which remains the same whether you ingest nicotine through e-cigarettes or combusted cigarettes,” says Singh, who feels a holistic approach is the need of the hour and understands bio-psycho social aspects of the quitting journey.

Most of the existing solutions focus on helping smokers to shift to NRTs, E-cigs or medication to reduce ingestion of nicotine content. Very few approach smoking as a habit, there is no understanding of needs and triggers in the majority of the products available.

Smotect has introduced nicotine-free natural tablets that received US patents. According to clinical trials, the result of tablets increases the chance of quitting by 10 times over self-quitting. The herbal formulation reduces the urge to smoke while managing withdrawal symptoms like irritation, stress and anxiety.
Professional counselling based on the MBCT approach (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy) provides insight on the real cause of stress, anxiety and emotional pain and facilitates development of psychological resilience. It also deals with the psychological dependence on smoking and empowers to say no to a cigarette.

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