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E-smoking: A looming health crisis

There is a soaring trend of electronic smoking among teens as Oman's youth grapples with an emerging crisis

E-smoking is the new epidemic among teenagers in the Sultanate of Oman and has begun to spread widely.

Experts have warned that nicotine addiction at an early age makes quitting smoking more difficult and can cause brain reshaping and addiction to other substances in the future. Even the person who is addicted to it could smoke six times more likely to regular cigarettes than those who did not try electronic cigarettes.

Dr Ahmed bin Hamad al Wahaibi, Senior Consultant in Family and Community Medicine at the Ministry of Health, mentioned in an interview with Oman Radio that 5 per cent of Omani students use electronic cigarettes, and 26 per cent buy electronic cigarettes from inside the Sultanate of Oman.

Several years ago, electronic cigarettes gained great popularity among teenagers. Some teens resort to them as an alternative to traditional cigarettes marketed as safer. This type of cigarette has become an attraction for young people and youths as a ‘new fashion.’

However, many studies indicate that these cigarettes cause many health risks, as one study found that e-cigarettes are one of the factors that destroy adolescents’ memory.

The way an electronic cigarette works is very similar to a regular cigarette and gives the smoker the same feeling as a regular cigarette. Electronic cigarettes contain varying percentages of nicotine and thus lead to addiction.

Cigarettes, whether regular or electronic, contain nicotine in different proportions, which negatively affects health and may be more dangerous due to their high toxicity. Continuing to use them for a long period leads to many diseases, and they are considered more dangerous than regular cigarettes, as they contain eight times the amount of nicotine found in regular cigarettes.

Nicotine causes severe addiction, and a non-smoker of regular cigarettes may become addicted if they start using electronic cigarettes. In addition, using it continuously exposes a person to lung cancer because it contains emissions of nicotine and other toxic substances that are harmful to smokers and non-smokers exposed to the spray it produces indirectly. Its use by teenagers and youths has harmful effects on brain development and the destruction of memory during growth, leading to learning disorders and anxiety.

A study conducted by the University of South Carolina revealed that teenagers who used e-cigarettes faced a higher risk of transitioning to traditional cigarette smoking within a span of two years after initiating e-cigarette use.

This research, which studied the smoking habits of 18-year-old teenagers, supports the argument that e-cigarettes can be a gateway to smoking for teenagers.

Experts and researchers have found that nicotine added to e-cigarette liquid causes addiction, making it difficult to stop vaping and using traditional cigarettes. This may lead to nicotine poisoning, especially with the dual use of e-cigarettes and traditional cigarette wraps. They also found that nicotine causes birth defects in fetuses and inhibits the brain's normal development. Therefore, e-cigarettes mean a trick called quitting smoking.

Moreover, it was found that it takes the same time for the lungs to recover after quitting smoking e-cigarettes as it does after quitting regular cigarettes, which takes several months to a year and sometimes longer. However, this is only if inhaling glycerin and propylene glycol fumes does not cause irreparable harm.

According to the Consumer Protection Authority, electronic cigarettes in Oman are prohibited. The Authority decided to withdraw electronic cigarettes and shisha from the country’s markets to preserve public health.

There is a provision of a fine on the violators amounting to RO 500. The fine is doubled if the violation is repeated, and if the violation continues, an administrative fine of RO 100 will be imposed for each day that the violation continues, provided the total does not exceed RO 2,000.

One may wonder why teenagers are keen on smoking e-cigarettes despite their dangers. Likely, the period of adolescence often coincides with bad decisions. Neurologically, the parts of the brain responsible for good judgement and planning decisions are still in the developmental stage, and teenagers are also in a stage in which they are trying to discover the world outside their families and with their friends.

Prevention is the best defence for parents who want to keep their children away from electronic smoking. Parents must have a dialogue with their children and talk about the harmful effects of electronic smoking.

The way a parent reacts when they discover that their child is using e-cigarettes can greatly impact their behaviour later on.

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