How Harmless Is The Electronic Cigarette?
Nairobi city is smoking, and it is doing so ‘digitally,’ now that e-cigarettes are becoming popular.
“You see, Electronic cigarettes, also known as E-Gigs has no smoke, they are really safe to consume. You know, the smoke has always been a problem here, especially with traditional tobacco cigars. Its consumption leads to lung cancer due to its tar content. E-cigs is the safest ” says Phillip a 5-year tobacco smoker who turned to vape in 2020 as a resolve to quitting cigarettes in 2021.
An e-cigarette, also known as an e-cigs, or a vape pen is a digital pen-looking device through which people blow smoke. It is a battery-powered device that converts liquid nicotine into a vapour that the smoker inhales. There’s no fire, no ash, and no smoky smell. The trend can be seen on social media, in joints, and in movies.
E-cigarettes are being taken up by those wishing to kick the tar and carcinogenic substances-laden and addictive tobacco cigarettes. They are believed to be less toxic and have a liquid solution that contains nicotine. The liquid is heated in the delivery system to produce vapor.
“It is cool, classy and I can smoke it anywhere without necessarily hiding,” boasts Phillip who has been hypnotized by the vape pen which does not require one to sit at those red facilities designed for city smokers in the CBD.
The first batch of e-cigs arrived in Kenya in 2003. However, they were rejected by many but in recent years, they have become so popular and have been embraced primarily by the youth with over 450 brands in the country. Top vendors in the business include Collins, Vape Duka, and Vape Kenya.
Although there is less information regarding e-cigarette smoking, vendors admit to making 1000 shillings for a single flavor. “E-cigs is a hot cake. Real deal right now!” exclaims Collins who is well known for this booming business in the city.
The information technology graduate from the University of Nairobi found a supplier of e-cigarettes and the liquid in the UK, where he had gone to visit his elder brother. Now that is where he imports them from.
“I used Sh200, 000 as capital. I started the business in March 2015 after some research, with the help of my elder brother and it became fully operational in June same year. The thing with a new business is that you have to educate people on what it is all about,” he revealed.
He says that he has a number of customers in the city: “Most of my customers are the upscale ones”.
A single e-cigarette is equivalent in quantity to five packets of tobacco cigarettes and costs Sh3, 000. One flavor costs between Sh900 to Sh1, 000.
Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigs emit no smoke which is the leading reason why non-smokers take on the habit. Wendy, a non-smoker talks about her vaping experience.
“For a start, I was scared of trying because am not a cigarette smoker. As a matter of fact, I hate the smoke from a traditional cigarette especially when one smokes openly and you tend to inhale it “unwillingly”. However, some friends introduced me to the pen. It was amazing puffing it. So far so good. I love it”.
For Wendy, it has now become a habit, which according to her, is not willing to let go of any time soon.
“I enjoy every bit of it, all thanks to technology. It sobers me up, especially when I drink too much”.
While she thinks she doesn’t have to worry about lung cancer, there are many health risks involved.
How safe is the pen?
It is clear that there is insufficient knowledge regarding e-cigarettes. The legal status of E-cigs is currently pending in most countries. In Kenya, there is no clear policy to regulate or guide the use, sale, and consumption of electronic cigarettes.
With the rising popularity of e-cigarettes even without prior information, smokers remain in the dark about the impact that the vaping pen has on them.
According to Dr. Susan Chesire, a pulmonologist from Mo teaching and referral hospital, e-cigs contain nicotine which can impede brain development for adolescents as well as the fetus.
“E-cigarettes contain other harmful substances, not just water and vapour. Some of these harmful substances include formaldehyde in the vapour, a known carcinogen”.
Dr. Chesire also asserts that e-cigarettes lead to severe lung problems which are evident in developing countries that have embraced e-cigarette smoking.
“As we speak, there are 25 countries that have criminalized both traditional smoking whereas countries like Brazil, Singapore, Uruguay, and India have banned vaping.
Compared to combustible cigarettes, vaping is deemed less harmful especially when people use them as a replacement. However, this is not always the case. As a matter of fact, it presents a problem that is double-fold”.
According to CDC 2019, nearly 200 e-cigarette users have developed severe lung disease in 22 states and the numbers keep rising. Most cases were among teens and young adults.