In pen and flash drives format, electronic cigarettes addict children and adolescents to nicotine

In pen and flash drives format, electronic cigarettes addict children and adolescents to nicotine

They are shaped like school supply items such as pens, flash drives and correctors and are sold as harmless. However, they contain nicotine and several other carcinogens, in amounts greater than a “regular” cigarette. For health agencies, the industry’s strategy has worked, as the use of electronic cigarettes by adolescents has increased in the country, according to a study by the School of Nursing of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG).

The search points out that at least 32.6% of adolescents between 16 and 17 years old have already tried cigarettes at some point in their lives. If analyzed young males, the number rises to 35%. Among the adolescents interviewed, 16.8% chose to use electronic cigarettes.

The doctor Liz Almeida, responsible for the Prevention and Surveillance Coordination (Conprev) of the National Cancer Institute (INCA), explains that most people who adhered to electronic cigarettes had never smoked. “Particularly children and teenagers. And this is the great damage of the product: all over the world, the people who are using it the most are people who had never put a cigarette in their mouths”, she highlights.

With strategic formats and flashy essences, the objects try to pass as harmless. “Many parents find out late. In the United States, treatment was offered to children and adolescents, and within hours, thousands of people were enrolled (with lung problems). Normally, we treat adults who have smoked for many years. (These damages) in children and adolescents is something new.”

Addiction to nicotine – one of the most difficult drugs to get rid of – causes various types of cancer, pulmonary emphysema, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. The diseases caused by the use of cigarettes have been known for decades, and to “circumvent” advertising restrictions and “rejuvenate the product”, manufacturers win over teenagers with devices that pass as harmless, points out the coordinator of the Chemical Dependency Outpatient Clinic and psychiatrist at the Hospital from the UFMG Clinics, Frederico Garcia.

“What we end up seeing in teenagers is a bit of this, because there is a ‘fashion’ to keep the product in their mouths. There is a whole appreciation of a product that causes harm to health in a very clear way, which unfortunately has been used at an earlier age and brings problems”, said Garcia, who noted that some adults have been consuming nicotine at a toxic level.

How did the electronic cigarette come about?

The doctor Liz Almeida explains that the most recent devices were developed by a Chinese in the early 2000s to help contain addiction in a less harmful way. However, the opposite happened.

“Electronic devices for smoking, which is the more correct term, were initially created in 1963 by an American, but this model did not have nicotine and did not catch on. After that, the tobacco industry created models that also didn’t work very well in the market. Finally, in 2003, a Chinese man created this model that has been spreading,” he explains.

The devices began to be sold without pre-tests to check for side effects in human populations. “Nicotine has the role of accelerating the brain’s reward system. It causes a quick feeling of well-being, but it also accelerates the circulatory system, which can lead to hypertension, which is a risk factor for a heart attack.”

in the countries where the “vapes” and “pods” are sold freely, the medical community begins to report an increase in hospitalizations for severe acute respiratory syndrome. “In the United States, it has already led to the hospitalization of more than 2 thousand people and killed 68“, says the doctor.

Essences, nicotine and unknown products

In addition to the format to not look like a cigarette, vapes gain essences – usually sweet – and water vapor. to appear harmless or less aggressive. However, in addition to nicotine, hundreds of substances are added in unknown amounts, and there is no regulation for their production and importation.

“Companies say they only use water and glycerin in essences, but heated form chemical reactions that can be toxic and carcinogenic. we still does not have a clear idea of ​​the long-term impact. we know that Aspiration of smoke can cause fibrosis, emphysema, cancer, but we still don’t have enough epidemiological distance to say the size of this impact”, explains Garcia.

Liz Almeida details that many of these substances are food additives that were made for the digestive system and not the respiratory system. “Also, there are heavy metals. In the case of cancer, the disease can take 20, 30 years to develop, so it won’t have all the effects you see now. However, respiratory symptoms are already well documented.”

Treatments by SUS

The Municipality of Belo Horizonte (PBH), through the Municipal Health Department, explained to the Itatiaia that the 152 Health Centers in the capital have free treatment through the Tobacco Control Program, including the supply of medicines. To receive treatment, it is necessary to look for the Center in your region and participate in the meetings.

“The treatment begins with a lecture about the program and follows with a clinical evaluation, in addition to individual or group therapy sessions. In group sessions, the intensive approach is carried out in groups of 10 to 15 participants, coordinated by higher-level health professionals. There are four weekly sessions during the first month, followed by two biweekly sessions and a monthly session from the third to the sixth month. In specific cases, treatment can be carried out with an individual approach.

According to the secretariat, “The treatment of smokers includes strategies to face chemical, behavioral and psychological dependence. The approach through groups is a priority, however, in some cases it can also be offered individually according to the patient’s demand and the possibilities of the teams”.

From January to August this year, 1,374 people participated in the Tobacco Control Program at the Health Centers in the capital.

What does Anvisa say?

According to the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa), “there is no information to support the authorization for the entry of these products in the Brazilian market”. Despite this, the products are sold on websites and social networks. “The inspection of physical stores is the responsibility of the local, municipality and state authorities”the agency explained.

Complaints can be made at the municipal health surveillance itself. “Anvisa carries out online inspection of any smoking product, however, this is not an exclusive assignment of the Agency. State and Municipal Health Surveillance can also inspect any type of health irregularity”.

The agency also listed the reason for the device not being authorized in the country:

  • Neither type of DEF is useful for smoking cessation or treatment;

  • DEFs cause dependence (presence of nicotine) and various health risks;

  • Reducing the emission of substances does not mean reducing risk or harm to health;

  • Absence of medium and long-term studies of health impacts;

  • Initiation of young people to smoking, with a 2 to 3x chance of starting the use of conventional products;

  • There is a great diversity of products, which makes it impossible to predict the risks;

“A study carried out in Brazil shows that users do not have a correct perception of risk about products; are attracted to additives and do not think they are smokers”, concluded the agency.

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