In 2013, more than 50 scientific experts submitted a signed document to the World Health Organization stating that vapor products are “among the most significant health innovations of the 21st century — perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives.”
Less than a week ago, health organizations in the US and UK declared that vaping e-cigarettes is 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco. So much so, that Public Health England (PHE) has concluded that e-cigarettes could soon be dispensed as licensed medicines, proving to be an alternative for products used for cessation aid like patches and gum.
PHE has stressed that although e-cigarettes are not risk-free, they “have the potential to make a significant contribution to the endgame for tobacco.” The government’s Chief Medical Officer has backed the conclusions, but threw a word of caution.
“There continues to be a lack of evidence on the long-term use of e-cigarettes. I want to see these products coming to the market as licensed medicines. This would provide assurance on the safety, quality and efficacy to consumers who want to use these products as quitting aids, especially in relation to the flavorings used, which is where we know least about any inhalation risks.”
Does this declaration serve a blow to Big T’s effort to shut down an entire industry of vaping? That depends on who you ask. If you ask vapers, they will probably think this is good news. But is this piece of news from England good enough for the American FDA to consider? Only time will tell. In the UK, e-cigarettes are not a licensed product yet. There are pilot schemes in Leicester and London city that offer free-e-cigarette starter kits, but not anywhere else in England.
In the US, The American Heart Association (AHA) supports the claim and states that e-cigarettes or e-liquids cannot be outright condemned as seriously harmful technology as many health groups and politicians have. In a lengthy statement, they suggested that this technology could help smokers quit. In a 20 page policy paper, the AHA suggests that vaping is less dangerous than smoking and confirming claims that it can used as a smoking cessation aid. It states:
“E-cigarettes either do not contain or have lower levels of several tobacco-derived harmful and potentially harmful constituents compared with cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.”
The AHA also said that it supports regulation of the e-cigarettes, but they are against the regulations dominated by major US cigarette manufacturers who could possibly “promote dual use to sell more conventional cigarettes” and could “steer e-cigarette users to combustible products and thereby increase rather than recreate nicotine and tobacco addiction.” The AHA concluded that e-cigarettes “present an opportunity for harm reduction if smokers use them as substitutes for cigarettes.”
It is noteworthy that current FDA regulations strictly prohibit the marketing of vaping products on the basis of “medical claims,” such as “quit smoking” or “tobacco cessation.” Statements such as these are reserved for the medical community, not marketers.
The American Medical Association published a study recently stating that Los Angeles high schoolers who had used e-cigarettes were more likely to try tobacco products such as cigarettes and cigars. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says e-cigarettes haven’t been fully studied and has proposed bringing them under proper regulation. Both organizations have made it clear that they will not support the promotion of e-cigarettes as smoking alternative, but as cessation aid. Both have made an impetus on the point that the products have to be taxed enough to discourage minors from buying them.
In the UK, legislation will ban under-18 customers from buying e-cigarettes by October. The Welsh government is concerned that vaping will normalize smoking to a young generation that was brought up in an anti-smoking environment. Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at PHE, said:
“E-cigarettes are not completely risk-free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm. The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting. Local stop-smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely.”
Back in 1976, Professor Michael Russell stated in the British Medical Journal, “People smoke for nicotine but they die from the tar.” Today, not much has changed that could overturn this fact. Globally, scientists agree that smoke-free nicotine is not that big of a threat as compared to inhaling burning smoke into the lungs. This, of course, comes with an exception for pregnancies and rare conditions. Otherwise, the US FDA and the UK MHPRA recommend that nicotine addiction from smoking can be replaced by other nicotine products like patches and gum.
However, members of the general public are led into believing misinformation given by activist groups, without any research documentation, that vaping is supposed to be just as harmful as smoking.
Close to half of the UK population (44.8 percent) isn’t aware that vaping is less harmful than tobacco and they feel that vaping is as harmful as smoking.
The numbers state that this view has grown tremendously from 2013 to 2015. Most criticized is the e-liquid or the vapor itself, that they contain chemicals not suitable for humans, externally or internally.
The UK population fails to comprehend – due to no fault of their own – the fact that the chemicals are only harmful in a specific quantity. Finally, Mitch Zeller, Deputy Director of the Center for Tobacco Products of the Food & Drug Administration stated that, “If we could get all of those people [who smoke] to completely switch all of their cigarettes to noncombustible [e-] cigarettes, it would be good for public health.” So it is now up to the consumer class to decide what is best for them.
In some parts of the world, vaping is settling into the culture and it will go further around the world as the industry grows to an estimated $5 billion by the next year.