The persistent use of e-cigarettes in Pakistani society has exposed the younger generation to serious respiratory, oral and brain issues that may prove fatal in later stages of life. Besides an increasing possibility of drug addiction and long-term damage to brain and IQ development as well as the respiratory system, constant use of e-cigarettes along with other tobacco products can do even more damage to the human’ body than conventional cigarette smoking. “Electronic cigarettes are equally harmful that of conventional cigarettes and their regular use can prove fatal due to threats of lung, oral and mouth cancers,” said Dr Malik Riaz Khan, Principal Medical Officer, Government Hospital Pabbi, Nowshera while talking to APP. Citing reports, he said that about 6.2 per cent of the population used vaping/e-cigarettes while 15.9 million (12.4pc) used smokeless tobacco. “The young adults, especially college and university students, when consumed these products do not realize the long term harmful impacts of e-cigarettes and at a later stage expose themselves to serious lung related diseases, nicotine addiction, depression and anxiety,” he said. In recent years, electronic cigarettes or vapes have gained popularity among youngsters and students as a fashionable alternative to traditional tobacco smoking. Supporters claimed that e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes but the true intensity of the habit is still unknown to the public. “I started first naswar, then e-cigarette as a fashion and now conventional cigarette due to unemployment and today I could not go a day without a vape,” said Sajid Khan, an e-cigarette smoker of Pabbi. “These drugs have snatched my happiness and prestige,” Sajid Khan said, adding my family had left me abandoned after smoking and I felt angry at myself when children started laughing at me due to my ugly attire. Dr Riaz said every segment of society; non-governmental organizations and social bodies are on the same page to control the alarming use of e-cigarettes, stressing the need for collective efforts to save youngsters from the harmful habit. Blue Veins and the Provincial Alliance for Sustainable Tobacco Control Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has also urged the provincial government and concerned authorities to remain vigilant of the manipulative ways of the tobacco industry emphasizing the need for concerted efforts to combat these nefarious strategies. “Governments and civil society organizations must remain active and vigilant against third parties and front groups that are working with the support of the tobacco industry,” stated Sana Ahmad, Program Coordinator of Blue Veins, a civil society organization while talking to APP. “These entities are working on the behest and support of tobacco companies pushing agendas that serve the industry’s interests ignoring public health. “E-cigarettes often contain nicotine, an addictive substance that can cause increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and negative changes in brain function. The phenomena especially concern young people, as their brains are still developing,” she opined. Dr Qazi Shahbaz, Chairman, the Provincial Doctors Association said that in protecting public health and preventing a new generation from falling prey to nicotine addiction and its harmful consequences, we cannot allow the vaping industry to undo the progress made in tobacco control so far. Inhaling the vapour from e-cigarettes can lead to respiratory problems and some studies suggest that e-cigarette aerosol can irritate the airways and cause inflammation leading to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, he said. Cases of severe lung injury associated with vaping or e-cigarettes have also been reported. The harmful habit can also cause symptoms such as chest pain, and difficulty in breathing and in some cases it can be fatal, he said, stressing a result-oriented plan at a higher level to prevent the spread of e-cigarettes. Dr Ihtisham, Chest Specialist LRH said vaping often perceived as a safer alternative to traditional smoking, is a growing concern in the medical community. There is a lack of convincing evidence to support that vapes are effective tools for quitting smoking, he said and maintained that on the contrary use of vapes introduces a new set of health risks, including respiratory issues that should not be ignored. He said that nicotine, even without the combustion of tobacco, can have irreversible effects on the cardiovascular system, increasing chances of cardiovascular diseases. Aerosol emitted from E-cigarette is not harmless water vapor as it contains various chemicals including formaldehyde and acetaldehyde which are known to be harmful and some of these chemicals are produced during the heating process of the e-liquid. “Provincial Alliance for Sustainable Tobacco Control Khyber Pakhtunkhwa called for an immediate ban on vapes and e-cigarettes in Pakistan. The alliance demanded aligning policies with recent directives by the World Health Organization (WHO) which recommended that governments should treat e-cigarettes similarly to traditional tobacco products and enforce a complete ban on it for the sake of our future generation. Coordinator, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Tobacco Control Cell, Ajmal Shah told APP that new trends in the use of tobacco products are enticing the youth with slogans like “Quit smoking and start vaping” and such slogans should be discouraged. Unfortunately, these moves are attracting people, especially youngsters towards the use of e-cigarettes, vaping, and heated tobacco products. The experts called for a ban on e-cigarettes and vaping keeping in view its harms to public health and increasing use of modern tobacco products among youth. They also suggested introducing anti-E-cigarette legislation and making amendments to the existing anti-smoking laws. They said it was the responsibility of the government to take action for protection of the masses from the harmful effects of e-cigarettes and to make society tobacco-free. In a land mark development, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has imposed section 144 to ban storage, sale and use of e-cigarettes and vapes to minors and within vicinity of educational institutions in the province. “The decision has been taken in wake of alarming increase in use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and vaping devices particularly among children and youth in the province,” according to a notification of KP Home Department. The order imposed complete ban on sale of e-cigarettes and vapes to individual below the age of 21 years throughout the KP. Similarly sale, storage and use of e-cigarettes and vapes within a distance of 50 meter radius of all educational institutions in KP is prohibited. It said to safeguard the health and well-being of our citizens, especially younger generation, Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 be imposed for a period of 60 days.