The rise in teen vaping in Goa is disturbing and therefore needs immediate attention, not just to sensitise people, but to take stringent steps to prevent its spread. The Goa State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (GSCPCR) has called on DGP Jaspal Singh to enforce a ban on e-cigarettes in educational institutions, seeking a compliance report from Goa Police.
The GSCPCR has criticised the tobacco industry’s aggressive marketing of electronic vaping devices as trendy and safe. The use of these products, with their attractive appearances and multiple flavours, has increased among students in educational institutions, potentially leading to higher levels of substance addiction. The Commission recommends rigorous enforcement of the ban and clamping down on outlets selling these prohibited products.
Studies have suggested that e-cigarette use among adolescents is prevalent due to the perception created by advertising agencies online or offline. They are also easily accessible to middle and high school students raising concerns about their impact on health. Marketing strategies, especially on social media and through celebrity endorsements, have played a significant role in making e-cigarettes appealing to adolescents.
Health Effects of e-cigarette use in adolescents
Nicotine Addiction: This is a major concern in adolescents due to the addictive nature of e-cigarettes. These products can create a psychological dependence on nicotine, making it difficult to quit. As adolescents’ brains are still developing, it makes them vulnerable to addiction. Long-term effects include impaired attention, learning and memory. Exposure to other substances like alcohol and marijuana can further increase addiction risk. Hence, there is a dire need to prevent and discourage e-cigarette use.
Respiratory Problems: Studies also tell us that e-cigarette users inhale aerosols containing harmful chemicals and particles, which can cause respiratory problems like coughing, wheezing, and asthma. Some chemicals have been linked to lung damage, including bronchiolitis obliterans, or ‘popcorn lung’. Regular or long-term use increases the risk of respiratory problems. Individuals must be aware of these risks and what they are getting themselves into.
Cardiovascular Problems: E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which can increase heart rate and blood pressure, straining the heart and blood vessels, and increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke. Long-term use may also contribute to atherosclerosis, a build-up of plaque in arteries. E-cigarette aerosol chemicals cause inflammation and damage blood vessels, further contributing to cardiovascular problems. Adolescents should be aware of this potential health risk.
Mental Health Issues: E-cigarette use has been linked to negative mental health effects, especially among adolescents. Studies show that those using e-cigarettes are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. Nicotine in e-cigarettes can affect neurotransmitters in the brain, increasing the risk of developing mental health issues. The act of vaping can also contribute to mental health issues, leading to unhealthy dependence on the devices. There is a bidirectional relationship between mental health and substance use, with adolescents with pre-existing conditions more likely to use e-cigarettes.
Increased Risk of Substance Abuse: Adolescents using e-cigarettes are at a higher risk of substance abuse due to the addictive nature of nicotine and social and environmental factors. Thus, parents, educators, and healthcare providers should educate adolescents about the health risks of e-cigarette use, including the impact of nicotine on brain development and respiratory, cardiovascular, and mental health problems. Discouragement and support for those struggling with addiction are also crucial. Policies and regulations aimed at reducing youth access to e-cigarettes and restricting marketing can help prevent adolescent e-cigarette use and its associated negative health effects.
Interventions for prevention:
The probable interventions that one can effectively introduce to prevent crucial health issues in teens and adolescents are the following:
Policies: Public policies, including age restrictions, advertising regulations and taxation, could be the first effective steps in reducing adolescent e-cigarette use.
School-Based Programs: Such programs, incorporating e-cigarette education into the curriculum, could effectively prevent adolescent e-cigarette use. These programs should educate students on the risks and harms of e-cigarette use, including nicotine, long-term health consequences and strategies for avoiding it. These include teaching refusal skills and healthy coping mechanisms, such as stress reduction techniques and exercise.
Parental Involvement: This is crucial in preventing e-cigarette use in adolescents. By monitoring their children’s behaviour and communicating regularly about the risks and harms of e-cigarettes, parents can guide them towards healthier choices. By staying aware of their activities and social circles, parents can identify potential negative influences and have open conversations about the addictive nature of nicotine. Additionally, setting rules and boundaries around e-cigarette use, such as prohibiting home use and establishing consequences, can help prevent addiction.
Peer-Led Programs: Studies suggest that peer-led programs are effective in preventing e-cigarette use among teens and adolescents by utilizing the influence of peers. These programs involve peer-to-peer education and support, where trained educators provide information and guidance about the risks and harms of e-cigarette use. Peer-led interventions, such as social media campaigns, spread awareness about the dangers of e-cigarette use through engaging language and non-judgmental support. Social media platforms like Instagram can be used to disseminate user-generated content, further engaging and resonating with young people.
Community-Wide Initiatives: Such initiatives involve stakeholders like schools, parents, public health officials, and community leaders to prevent e-cigarette use in adolescents. These programs aim to promote healthier behaviours and involve education, policy changes and community outreach.
E-cigarette use among teens and adolescents is a significant public health concern, posing serious health risks. Effective prevention programs, public awareness and stronger regulations are needed. Collaboration among parents, educators, healthcare providers, policymakers, and the community is crucial to develop evidence-based strategies and protect future generations from e-cigarette harm.