This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Abhishek Jha. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

5 Facts That’ll Bust The Myth About Vaping Being ‘Cool and Healthy’

More from Abhishek Jha

TNC logoEditor’s Note: With #TobaccoNotCool, Youth Ki Awaaz and WHO India have joined hands to shed light on India's silent tobacco epidemic, which is claiming nearly 1 million lives every year. Join the campaign to discuss how tobacco consumption is a threat to India's development goals and take the message ahead to thousands!

We have all had (or at least known) that one friend who brought an electronic cigarette (or e-cigarette) so that they could quit smoking. The assumption at play? That while cigarettes are harmful and while tobacco causes diseases like cancer and heart diseases, e-cigarettes are harmless, benign, and pose zero health risks. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

That e-cigarettes and e-shishas help in quitting smoking is only one of the many popular myths that surround their sale and usage. The truth is that researchers (unless they are funded by tobacco companies) argue that transnational tobacco companies make use of deceptive health claims to market e-cigarettes to target young consumers and encourage them to smoke.


In a country where 8-9 lakh people die of tobacco related diseases every year, this trend is obviously problematic. Add to this the fact that sale of e-cigarettes isn’t regulated in India (except in Karnataka, Kerala and Punjab where they are banned under food and drug laws and regulations) and the problem becomes bigger.

Considering the rise in their sale and consumption in recent years (the Union health minister told the parliament in December 2015 that the import of e-cigarettes had risen by almost 100% between 2012-13 and 2015-16), it becomes essential to question the myths surrounding this smoking device.

Here we debunk the most popular myths associated with e-cigarettes/e-shishas:

1. E-Cigarette Smoke Doesn’t Have As Many Toxicants As Cigarettes

A study conducted by the Dutch health ministry found that although e-cigarettes have lower concentration of some cigarette-specific toxic chemical compounds (like tobacco-specific nitrosamines), e-cigarettes have their own toxicants (like polyols and aldehydes), that sometimes exist in higher concentrations than in cigarette smoke.

2. E-Cigarettes/E-Shishas Won’t Give Me Cancer

If you are smoking a nicotine containing e-cigarettes or e-shisha, there is little respite for you. Nicotine by itself isn’t a carcinogen – but it does promote tumours and malignant diseases. After all, cigarettes have been around for a while and there is plenty of research that shows that nicotine, the chemical that drives people to smoking, is harmful for you.

Even non-nicotine e-cigarettes contain heavy metals. And prolonged use of even these e-cigarettes can lead to cancer. More research, however, needs to be conducted before we can directly correlate the amount of heavy metals consumed through e-cigarettes to cancer.

E-shisha and e-hookah

3. E-Cigarettes/E-Shishas Help In Quitting Smoking

This is another big myth. Nicotine in itself is considered highly addictive and can even lead you on to try other drugs. It’s not surprising to know then that the US’ National Institute On Drug Abuse has stated that ‘there is no conclusive scientific evidence on the effectiveness of e-cigarettes for long-term smoking cessation’.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that although there isn’t a clear association (chemically/biologically) between vaping and smoking, it also found that ‘use by minors who have never smoked at least doubles their chance of starting to smoke’.

Why is this myth out there then? Two Danish researchers reviewed 76 studies conducted on the content of the fluid/vapour of e-cigarettes and found ‘serious methodological problems’. “In 26 studies (34%), the authors had a conflict of interest. Most studies were funded or otherwise supported/influenced by manufacturers of ECs, but several authors had also been consultants for manufacturers of medicinal smoking cessation therapy,” the review says.

4. So You Mean To Say Go With E-Cigarettes With No Nicotine And Low Metal Content?

Maybe, but you will be doing that at your own risk. Metal content can vary across products and brands and you can try and choose ones which have low toxic substances. But how do you figure out if a company’s claims are true?

Take, for example, these three results from a laboratory analysis done by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

  • The electronic cigarette cartridges that were labelled as containing no nicotine had low levels of nicotine present in all cartridges tested, except one.
  • Three different electronic cigarette cartridges with the same label were tested and each cartridge emitted a markedly different amount of nicotine with each puff. The nicotine levels per puff ranged from 26.8 to 43.2 mcg nicotine/100 mL puff.
  • One high-nicotine cartridge delivered twice as much nicotine to users when the vapour from that electronic cigarette brand was inhaled than was delivered by a sample of the nicotine inhalation product (used as a control) approved by FDA for use as a smoking cessation aid.

These results are from the US, which has some country-wide regulations for e-cigarettes at least. In India, where there are no guidelines or rules around them, the market remains almost completely unregulated. So, it is totally up to the consumer to test the veracity  of a company’s claims and make a decision!

5. How About Fruit Flavoured E-Cigarettes? Fruits Aren’t Harmful!

Until January 2014, there were close to 8,000 flavours of e-cigarettes available – but research on them remains scarce. Popcorn flavourants are, however, known to cause ‘excess rates of lung disease and lung-function abnormalities’. A study done specifically on cinnamon-flavoured e-cigarettes found that the flavourants are toxic for living cells.

Moreover, when it comes to perceptions, a study based on a 2014 survey done in the UK with 11-16-year-olds found that the perception of harmfulness of e-cigarettes was moderated by what flavour they came in. “Fruit and sweet flavours were perceived as more likely to be tried by young never smokers than adult smokers trying to quit,” the study says.

All things said, when tobacco companies are getting involved with vaping, one should always be a little cautious and do one’s own research – than take their claims at face value. These multinationals are known for their intense lobbying and secretive marketing that you as a consumer might not always be aware of.

When you hear ‘facts’ about e-cigarettes or e-shishas, beware of where they are coming from and how they were found.  Ultimately, it is your health that’s at risk. So practice exercising that extra caution before buying that e-cigarette and trusting your health with it!


Image Source: Vaping360/Flickr

You must be to comment.
  1. Subham Bhattacharya

    I have doubts regarding the intention for the author and his knowledge of e-cigarette. For starters, e-cigarette help quitting smoking and I am a living example of it. I used to smoke 20+ cigarettes a day and I have been able to quit then within a week. No one said e-cigarettes are harmless but compared to smoking conventional cigarettes they are 95% safer. It’s not what I am saying it’s the Royal College of Physicians, UK’s finding. Regarding nicotine addiction yes it also helps to reduce that. My nicotine intake has halved within a couple of months. Though it’s not advisable for non smokers to get addicted to it, however for every smoker out there this would help you to quit smoking.

More from Abhishek Jha

Similar Posts

By M

By Saswati Chatterjee

By Twishaa Tandon

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below