“The safety of electronic cigarettes has not been scientifically proven and the pharmacological effects of nicotine, the addictive component, is known to accelerate the heart rate and raise blood pressure,” said Tara Singh Bam, technical adviser at the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.
Tara added that the Indonesian government should start regulating the manufacturing, marketing and sales of e-cigarettes.
These devices, or Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS), vaporize and deliver a chemical mixture to the user’s lungs. The concoction is usually made up of nicotine, propylene glycol and other chemicals, although some products claim not to contain the addictive stimulant at all.
Professor Tjandra Yoga Aditama, director general for Disease Control and Environmental Health, said Indonesia is currently studying nicotine devices so the country may establish policies to regulate manufacturing and sales.
Tjandra, a noted pulmonologist, added that e-cigarette producers have placed disclaimers on their products, warning they should not be used by sufferers of lung diseases, such as asthma, bronchitis or pneumonia
“This [disclaimer] indicates that the product is actually dangerous, especially for the respiratory system,” he said.
Tjandra said e-cigarettes offer customers an illusive sense of safety as they do not produce smoke and would, therefore, not contribute to second-hand smoking.
“The truth is, its effects on non-smokers still exist, considering ENDS devices still release nicotine particles and other toxic substances into the air,” he said.
Growing concerns about the dangers of e-cigarettes have driven some countries, including Brazil, Norway and Singapore, to restrict sales, advertising and use of nicotine devices.
He said Indonesia needs to take a similar approach.
“A comprehensive ban on all forms of advertising, promotion and sponsorship of e-cigarettes must be established,” he said, adding that the display of e-cigarettes in retail stores, as well as sales to minors should also be strictly prohibited.
“E-cigarettes and their refills should not be sold in flavors that are appealing to children,” he said.
The union reported the use of e-cigarettes in many countries, including Indonesia, has grown, reiterating concerns over a product whose health impact is still uncertain.
For youths, it said, questions surround the potential negative impact of nicotine on adolescent brain development, as well as a higher risk of addiction, which could lead to the use of conventional cigars or cigarettes.
The World Health Organization has also announced its worries over such products by suggesting “consumers should be strongly advised not to use” e-cigarettes until a regulatory body has given sound evidence of their safety and efficacy.
Tjandra said nicotine addiction in the country has reached a concerning level. In 2010, an estimated 200,000 Indonesians died of tobacco-related diseases.
Indonesia ranks third in the world for its number of smokers, behind China and India, though the nation has a higher prevalence of tobacco use and addiction among children.