Make e-cigarettes available to fight tobacco cancer

R N Sharan, a senior professor in the department of biochemistry at the North-Eastern Hill University in Shillong, who has been researching on cancer and its causes for many years now, says consuming electronic cigarettes reduces the risk of cancer by around 90-92 percent compared to the conventional ones. “Cancer is caused by carcinogenic elements generated from burning of organic leafy elements at a very high temperature of around 700-750 degree Celsius in conventional cigarettes.

In e-cigarettes, there is huge reduction of such elements to the tune of 90-92 percent,” Sharan said. That is why, the government should make a policy to give an option to the smokers to switch to e-cigarettes in its fight against cancer, he added. Expressing similar views, John Newton, Director of the Public Health England (PHE), the executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care in the UK, said that e-cigarettes have become the most popular quitting aid for smokers in Great Britain with three million regular users.

“Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95 percent less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders. Yet, over half of smokers either falsely believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking or just don’t know,” he added. American Cancer Society (ACS) in its latest policy statement on electronic cigarette has recommended with caution to healthcare clinicians that they add e-cigarettes and vaporisers as a smoking-cessation option. “The ACS has always supported any smoker, who is considering quitting, no matter what approach they use, there is nothing more important that they can do for their health,” it said. Jeff Stier, a senior fellow with the pro-e-cigarettes advocacy group Consumer Choice Center (CCC) said, “The ACS took a step in the right direction by recognising this important harm-reduction method.”

Elaborating the technology, Sharan said pure liquid nicotine is heated to a temperature of 80-120 degrees Celsius in e-cigarettes through a battery-run device, producing very tiny water droplets. On the contrary, tobacco leaves are burnt at around 700-750 degrees Celsius in normal cigarettes when one makes the puffs, leading to a very fast burning process. “In such cases, the oxygen is very less and it is a partial combustion. It generates random types of chemicals and it can go up to 5,000-6,000 different types.

Many of these are Class-I carcinogens, which are proven cancer-causing agents in humans,” Sharan explained. He added that nicotine is only an addictive material and is not a cause for cancer as it is not yet proven to be Class-I carcinogen. “The best is to get rid of smoking, but it is not so easy because people get addicted to it. We have been talking about nicotine therapies, but it is not serving the result and smoking has increased in the last 30 years. That is why, e-cigarettes should be given a chance in India,” Sharan said, pointing out that e-cigarettes are banned in six states.