Since the last month, Danesh Daruwala, 41, who is addicted to smoking cigarettes, has not been feeling guilty about smoking at his Andheri residence. The finance company employee has switched to using an electronic cigarette, with which a smoker exhales vapour and leaves no residue of cigarette smoke.
“My mother is happy that at least the e-cigarette does not stink up my house as cigarettes used to. Also, it (claims to) negate passive smoking,” said Daruwala, who has been smoking for the past 10 years.
Though cigarette smoking is injurious to health, a small number of smokers are switching to e-cigarettes either to reduce the intake of carcinogenic substances (with e-cigarette, a smoker only inhales nicotine vapour (which is harmful) and not other carcinogenic substances such as tar or tobacco) or to “try and quit smoking”.
Anti-smoking activists are not convinced about the product. “Nicotine is the most addictive substance in a cigarette. It stimulates the heart causing cardiovascular illness. It is also known known to cause cancer in animals,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, surgeon with Tata Memorial Hospital who is involved with anti-smoking activities. There have been no studies conducted on nicotine’s effect on humans.
Besides, there are no studies done on the product’s benefits. “It is a new product. I do not know of any study on it yet,” said Devika Chadha, project director, Salaam Bombay Foundation, an anti-tobacco advocacy group.
Most dealers selling the product claim the sales are gradually rising every month. “We cater to about 500 to 600 regular smokers of e-cigarettes in a year. About 500 to 600 smokers try the e-cigarette and do not order it again. Since 2008, my sales have tripled every year,” said Ayush Jain, proprietor of an agency selling e-cigarettes in Delhi. “I thought the e-cigarette would help me quit smoking. I kept increasing the dosage of nicotine to get the feel of a regular cigarette. But the urge to smoke a regular one was too much,” said Mihir Maheswar, 31, a Navi Mumbai-based freelance event manager.