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e-cigarettes carry several health risks: expert

There are several health risks associated with e-cigarettes and portraying them as safe is ‘extremely irresponsible and potentially dangerous,’ a Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) official has warned.

“Studies into the health risks posed by using electronic cigarettes, which are illegal in Qatar, are now beginning to be published,” said Dr Ziyad Mahfoud, associate professor, Healthcare Policy and Research at WCM-Q at the latest instalment of WCM-Q’s ‘Ask the Expert Series.’

“E-cigarettes are quite new and until recently there had not been much research into them, but now there have been few good quality studies and we are gaining some understanding of the health risks they carry,” he pointed out.

“Firstly, the production of the devices and the liquid that is vaporised and inhaled is poorly regulated. A user cannot be sure of what chemicals they are actually inhaling, and it is never recommended to introduce unknown, potentially harmful substances into the body.

“Secondly, e-cigarettes deliver nicotine, which is highly addictive, and research indicates that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking normal cigarettes, which we know can have catastrophic negative effects on health, including increased risk of respiratory disease, heart disease and many forms of cancer.

Portraying e-cigarettes as safe is therefore extremely irresponsible and potentially dangerous.”

Dr Mahfoud said that a few studies have shown that smoking e-cigarettes can reduce the normal consumption of regular cigarettes among smokers, but on the other hand marketing them as a safe alternative has led to some ex-smokers picking up the habit again.

“Until there are more regulations on the manufacturing of e-cigarettes and more studies about its health hazards, nicotine gum, nicotine patches, medications and cognitive behavioural therapy provide safer ways to reduce nicotine dependency and give up smoking.”

“A common misperception of shisha is that because the tobacco is fruit-flavoured, it is somehow healthier than normal tobacco. This is wrong: it is just normal tobacco that is mixed with molasses and other additives. It is harmful to health. Smoking shisha has been linked to respiratory, cardiovascular and periodontal diseases and many forms of cancer. It is addictive and also harmful to pregnant women and their foetuses.

“It is also completely untrue that the water in the shisha pipe filters out toxins. Scientific studies have proven that shisha smoke contains similar levels of tar and other hazardous chemicals as cigarette smoke does, and in some cases much higher levels.”

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