The Jakarta Post
Health advocates have urged the government to regulate the use of e-cigarettes to prevent non-smokers, particularly young ones, from taking up the habit.
Vaping — smoking battery-powered e-cigarettes — has been widely endorsed as an alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes with claims that it produces no hazardous carbon monoxide and tar, unlike conventional smoking.
However, a number of health advocates have argued that vaping is not without harm. They pointed out that vaping, which converts liquid into mist, has users inhaling vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, flavoring, coloring and nicotine.
According to Amaliya, a researcher from the Public Health Advocacy Foundation, e-cigarettes contain at least seven hazardous substances while tobacco cigarettes contain 400.
However, several studies have revealed that e-cigarette use is linked to certain health problems.
A recent survey conducted by the University of Kansas School of Medicine in the USA, for example, discovered that e-cigarette users or vapers are more likely to have heart problems.
Such smokers are 25 percent more likely to have coronary artery disease and 55 percent more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety. The rate of heart attacks among vapers, furthermore, is 34 percent higher.
The survey has yet to reach a conclusion on the reason why vaping could increase the risk of heart problems. However, health experts are concerned about the side effects of heating the e-liquid to high temperatures.
“Vaping is actually a good alternative for smokers who want to quit their harmful habit of inhaling tar,” Amaliya said. “But unfortunately, many non-smokers now see vaping as a cool lifestyle to follow.”
Even young people who have never been exposed to conventional cigarettes are now becoming used to e-cigarettes, she added.
According to date from the Association of Personal Vaporizer Indonesia (APVI), Indonesia has around 1.5 million vapers, most of whom are millennials aged 25 or above.
The government, therefore, needs to formulate firm regulations on the use of e-cigarettes to prevent non-smoker from taking up the habit, said Amaliya.
“The regulation should, among other, stipulate that e-cigarette users must be 18 years old or above.”
Suci Puspita Ratih of the University of Indonesia’s (UI) Social Security Research Center echoed her sentiments.
“We have put our children at risk too many times. We have to stop it now,” Suci said, adding that e-cigarettes contained carcinogens as well.
Last year’s report by the United States National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that substituting conventional cigarettes with e-cigarettes “reduces users’ exposure to many toxicants and carcinogens present in conventional cigarettes”, but the long-term effects of e-cigarettes remain unknown.
The report found "no available evidence whether or not e-cigarette use" is associated with cancer in people, but animal studies suggest that long-term e-cigarette use could increase the risk of cancer”.
The Jakarta Post has contacted the Health Ministry for comments but received no response.