Contrary to what most e-cigarette opponents and the mainstream media would have you believe, electronic cigarettes are not as dangerous to your health as analogs. Two of the world’s leading tobacco experts recently took to the internet to challenge these ridiculous claims with scientific evidence and relevant statistics.
“E-cigarettes are currently unlicensed, but both the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and the Medicines Healthcare Regulatory Associationacknowledge that their use is safer than continued smoking,” Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling and Deputy Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, wrote in an opinion editorial for the online edition of The Guardian newspaper. “This is not simply an opinion, it is an evidence-based statement, and one that is supported by tobacco control organisations in the UK. To imply otherwise is incorrect. This does not mean e-cigarettes are risk free, but few things are. What it does mean is that their use is safer than continued smoking.”
Tobacco cigarettes, on the other hand, are a known lethal product that kills one of in two regular smokers, who lose on average 10 years of life. They die from the tar and toxic gases generated by tobacco combustion, neither of which are found in electronic cigarettes. Nicotine is indeed a very addictive substance, but contrary to popular belief, it is not what kills smokers. In fact, many nicotine replacement therapy products are licensed as safe for use, including for groups like pregnant women who smoke and children over the age of 12 who smoke.
We have seen a series of scaremongering articles about children ingesting nicotine-containing e-liquid, some of which died as a result, which only fueled the efforts of e-cigarette opponents to get them banned or harshly regulated. While it is true that ingesting liquid nicotine can be fatal especially in the case of children, the issue has clearly been blown out of proportion by the media. Linda Bauld proves this by putting things in context: In 2013, there were 2.6 million to poison control centers, of which only 0.06% were related to nicotine products including e-liquids. If liquid nicotine ingestion were to be considered as grounds to have electronic cigarettes banned, Governments should probably start with cleaning products and medicine. Otherwise, it’s the producers’ responsibility to have e-liquid properly labeled and parents’ to keep them out of children’s reach.
Regarding fears related to second-hand vapor and the need to include electronic cigarettes in smoking ban laws, Bauld said that it is important to look at the health evidence. “E-cigarette vapor is not second hand smoke. In fact, it is not smoke at all and there is no good evidence that exposure is harmful to bystanders. To claim otherwise is simply factually incorrect. While some of the longer term impacts of continued vaping are unknown, using health arguments to support public places bans is not viable. Other grounds including etiquette or aesthetics are issues for individual businesses or premises to consider.”
The English tobacco expert is convinced that debates on the issue of electronic cigarettes will continue, but she believes that “those who feel moved to comment should do some reading first.”
Derek Yach, a long-time anti-smoking activist and former head of tobacco control at the World Health Organization, also believes electronic cigarettes are a safer alternative to smoking and that they are presented as much worse than they actually are. His opinions are based on existing scientific evidence and statements from credible sources. Like this 2014 message from the Royal College of Physicians which states that “the main benefit of e-cigarettes is that they provide inhalable nicotine in a formulation that mimics the behavioral components of smoking but has relatively little risk… Switching completely from tobacco to e-cigarettes achieves much the same in health terms as does quitting smoking and all nicotine use completely. Furthermore… risks associated with passive exposure to e-cigarette vapor are far less than those associated with passive exposure to tobacco smoke.”
The current head of the Vitality Institute also emphasizes that “unsupported statements are accepted as truth by policymakers and are used as the basis for stringent regulation of e-cigs in many jurisdictions” and argues that “the benefits of e-cigs in helping smokers quit or cut down should be weighed against the danger of either recruiting new smokers or creating e-cig addicts.” Studies in both Britain and America suggest that, as e-cig use increases, youth cigarette consumption declines, Yach claims.
Regarding policymakers’ attitude towards electronic cigarettes despite existing scientific evidence of their reduced health risk, Yach mentions a World Health Organization conference last October, where governments “stressed the need to protect tobacco-control activities from all commercial and other interests. That effectively means not talking to researchers developing new and safer products. They also wanted governments to consider prohibiting or regulating e-cigs as tobacco products — which would be a huge boost to the deadly status quo.” The reason for this, Yach says, is that “governments have become addicted to tobacco excise tax and may fear that, as e-cigs take off, they will lose a valuable source of revenue.”
“Market sectors need to adapt to the reality of e-cigs as a force for good. Retailers should voluntarily withdraw cigarettes from stores, or at least reduce their prominence, in favour of e-cigs and NRTs. CVS Health has yet to offer e-cigs, despite the fact that they work better than pharmaceutical products. Life insurers still treat e-cig users as regular smokers when they calculate premiums. This is short-sighted and misses a golden opportunity to spell out the benefits of quitting smoking and the positive impact of switching to e-cigs on people’s longevity,” Derek Yach concludes in his excellent op-ed for The Spectator.