Vaping is on the rise in Nepal, but many don't know about its effectsDesperate to get her son Bibek Pathak to quit his habit of smoking conventional cigarettes, Kalpana Dhungana introduced him to vaping or vapouriser, almost a year ago.
Desperate to get her son Bibek Pathak to quit his habit of smoking conventional cigarettes, Kalpana Dhungana introduced him to vaping or vapouriser, almost a year ago.
Kalpana browsed online retailers and bought a suitable vape. A vape is a device powered by a battery that is promoted as an alternative to regular cigarettes to help people get rid of the addiction to smoking.
The retailer delivered the vape to her home, but her substitute cigarette plan did not work as she expected.“I wanted to quit smoking so I switched to vaping, but contrary to our expectations, the outcome was different,” said Pathak, an engineer.
To make conditions worse for Pathak, who was already struggling with his smoking habit, there was a new addiction in his life - vaping. Unable to give up smoking, Pathak unintentionally developed an addiction to vaping.
“There was no improvement. There was no positive result that encouraged me to stop smoking, therefore I stopped vaping,” said Pathak.
“It did more harm to me. I was spending around Rs10,000 per month at the risk of my health. We should look for other alternatives than vaping to quit smoking because it clearly does not help,” said Pathak. Ditto is the story of many young people and adults who smoke or vape. Most invest a substantial amount of money to buy tanks, coils, liquids, batteries and other accessories and add-ons.
Vaping entered Nepal around two years ago. The technology, introduced as a must-needed gadget for adults to quit smoking or a ‘healthy alternative’, is increasingly popular among the youth. Teenagers and young adults can be seen exhaling vapour on the streets and public places such as cafes and restaurants. Dedicated vape lounges have popped up in the Capital where young adults are enveloped in dense white clouds of fog formed by their exhalations. Some even perform tricks and dedicated social media networks organise vape contests where participants perform vape tricks where they form different shapes in the clouds of vapour they exhale.
Vape kits, liquids and other accessories and add-ons are sold in trendy stores and online stores. They are just a click away and there is a garden of variety to choose from—rechargeable flashcard-like vaporisers to fist size gadgets with options of watts, multi-flavoured liquids also called ‘juice’ to fill in pods or tanks, are sold even in paan-kiosks and are available as low as Rs 200 to upwards of Rs 5,000.
The deceiving appearance, some are similar to a pen drive, of vaping makes it easy for users to carry it around in public places, schools and colleges.
“The price range of a full toolkit can range somewhere between Rs4,500 to Rs45,000,” said Prajwol Basnet, one of the partners of Vape Nepal, a leading seller of vape kits and liquids in the country. Most vape kits and products are imported from China and on special orders, suppliers even import gadgets and liquids from the USA and Malaysia. Besides the range of liquid flavours, there is an option to choose the amount of nicotine in the liquids, starting from 0 mg, 3 mg, 5 mg or higher in double-digit figures.
Online sellers usually deliver products at buyer’s home by delivery boys. Stores like Vape Nepal say they offer instructions on how to use the device to buyers. Retailers claim they do not sell these products to people under 18 years of age.
“Vape users are on the rise because of its anti-smoking quality. People of all age-groups are our clients and have benefited from these products,” said Basnet, who added that vaping was 97 per cent safer than actually smoking tobacco products.
“These products are lab tested. Tobacco products have tar that is not present in the liquids. As far as I know, vaping has no adverse effect on health.”
Contrary to Basnet’s claims, recent international studies say vaping can cause dangerous effects on human health than conventional smoking. According to a research published by the American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular last month, Greek scientists have claimed even short-term vaping can cause serious damage like lung inflammation.
The team of researchers, that tested vaping on mice, discovered inhaling vapour of liquids that contain propylene glycol, nicotine and flavourings could have detrimental effects on the lungs whereas their long-term harms are yet to be known.
Although vaping is still a new phenomenon, it continues to attract more and more young people in cities and towns across the country. While recent researches abroad continue to point out the lethal effects and revised liquid labels reflecting health hazards have been put out by vape production companies, awareness about the products and potential consequences is rare in Nepal, where every year more and more Nepalis are diagnosed with lung cancer, one of the most lethal cancer. Many general practitioners in the city do not have much information on this new fad.
Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital Medical Oncologist Dr Kamal Raj Soti told the Post, “I cannot comment on its health impacts as this is the first time I am hearing about vaping.”