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Rise of e-cigarettes contributing to growth of smoking culture.
Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that tobacco kills around six million people each year. While the majority (five million) of these fatalities are the result of direct tobacco use, more than 600 000 non-smokers are killed annually due to being exposed to second-hand smoke.
In light of World No Tobacco Day - celebrated every year on 31 May, Dr Dominique Stott, Executive: Medical Standards and Services at PPS, urges more South Africans to kick the unhealthy habit, and to educate themselves on the physical and financial burden that smoking has on their lives.
“Most people who smoke cigarettes on a daily basis are usually aware of the medical risks associated with smoking, but are simply too addicted to quit. The phenomenon is not only familiar among the ‘daily’ smokers, but also among people who use e-cigarettes and individuals who only smoke at social occasions. The worldwide increase in e-cigarettes, as well as the ‘vape-culture’, can be attributed to the myth that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes.”
Stott states that e-cigarettes were designed to provide the same effects as traditional cigarettes, via the inhalation of
vapour, but without the 7000 toxic substances in traditional cigarettes - of which at least 70 are known to be
carcinogenic. The ‘smoke’ produced is actually a vapour made up of propylene glycol (an inert substance considered
harmless for oral ingestion) and nicotine.
”Many consumers who label themselves as ‘social smokers’ may think that they are not as exposed to the health effects of smoking as daily smokers, but even light and intermittent smoking causes blood pressure and heart rate to elevate, which increases one’s risk of contracting heart disease.
“Social smokers also face an increased risk of acquiring respiratory tract infections and experience slower recovery from both physically injuries and medical ailments,” states Dr Stott.
She says many medical studies also show that cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease are all more prevalent
in smokers and that the leading cause of up to 90% of chronic bronchitis and emphysema is smoking. “It is also
associated with various cancers, not only of the respiratory tract but also of the mouth, tongue, and throat due to
the direct effect of carcinogens on the mucous membranes linking these areas. Smoking basically allows superheated
smoke to make contact with the mucous membranes lining the mouth and throat, which, over years of exposure,
contributes to the development of cancer.
“There is also the long-term exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (second hand smoke) which increases the risk
of lung cancer and heart disease. It is very important for parents who smoke to consider how much second hand smoke their children inhale in the family home. It is also vital that parents of teenagers increase their efforts of discouraging children from smoking or using tobacco, in order to reduce the number of young people who are addicted to nicotine.”
In addition to the physical damage of smoking to one’s health, many people do not actively consider the effects of
smoking on their finances. Dr Stott says that the most obvious financial impact of smoking is the cost ofthecigarettes:
“The average box of 20 cigarettes costs around R35, and, depending on how many cigarettes the person smokes in one day, the accumulated monthly amount spent on cigarettes can run extremely high.”
She also explains that smokers are usually charged a higher premium rate for life and health Insurance, as they are at
higher risk of contracting a vast array of medical problems - statistics reveal that approximately 40% of smokers will die prematurely. “Many insurance providers also consider the use of e-cigarettes as smoking and some providers even
conduct blood tests to determine whether those who declare that they are non-smokers smoke on a ‘social’ basis.
“While it may be difficult, it is not impossible for a smoker to give up the habit with many support options available,
including pharmaceutical aids for nicotine replacement such as patches and gum, psychotherapy and hypnosis.
The important thing is to recognise the impact that this habit has on one’s health and do something about it before it is too late,” concludes Dr Stott.
The United Kingdom have imposed strict laws, that were put into place on 20 May 2016, in order to regulate the sales of and ingredients included in these cigarettes. The legislation includes: