With the advent of new technologies and a social movement (in this case, vaping), media coverage can be unpredictable. It can run from the measured and informed to the emotional and biased. And the problem is only exacerbated with the advent of new, uncensored digital media.
It’s a relief to read a recent report from Public Health England about e-cigarettes that verifies much of what we’ve been saying in recent months, while simultaneously addressing many of the concerns about E cigarettes that have appeared in the press.
Public Health England say their mission “is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health.”
The full report is here, and it includes links to studies wherever there are statistics mentioned. There are some highlights from the report:
1. Frightening statistics for traditional smoking
As if we need reminding, one in two long-term smokers will die of a smoking-related illness. Worldwide, that’s half a billion people who will die too soon:
“Smoking is the largest avoidable cause of death and serious disability in the UK and most other developed countries, and a global health threat. There are about one billion smokers worldwide, of whom about half will die prematurely as a direct consequence of their smoking, unless they quit.”
2. Nicotine overdose fears
The PHE paper addressed the recent panic about possible nicotine overdose from vaping:
“Although there have been concerns that use of electronic cigarettes could lead to an overdose of nicotine, a study carried out using electronic cigarette brands available in the UK suggests that there is low risk of overdose of nicotine or even inhaling toxic doses of nicotine using electronic cigarettes.”
3. The effects of nicotine
Nicotine itself is not the main danger of traditional smoking, the report found; it’s the vessel of the cigarette that’s the problem:
“Aside from minor and transient adverse effects at the point of absorption, nicotine is not a significant health hazard. Nicotine does not cause serious adverse health effects such as acute cardiac events, coronary heart disease or cerebrovascular disease, and is not carcinogenic. The doses of nicotine delivered by electronic cigarettes are therefore extremely unlikely to cause significant short or long-term adverse events.”
4. The myth that vaping leads to smoking
The paper addressed another myth; the false belief that vaping is introducing people to smoking. PHE argued that instead, vaping is serving as a substitute to those who have already smoked, and that includes young people:
“There have been some suggestions that among non-smokers, electronic cigarettes might be used as a gateway to smoking and promote smoking uptake and nicotine addiction, particularly among children and young people. However, to date there is no data supporting this claim.”
As a replacement for traditional smoking, vaping is gaining ground, and replacing millions of cigarettes every year in the UK alone:
“Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has estimated that currently about 1.3 million people in the UK use electronic cigarettes, and around 400,000 people have completely replaced smoking with electronic cigarettes.”
(Ash has recently published a brief on E-cigarettes which gives a good synopsis of e-cigarette use in the UK and the benefits of switching from tobacco cigarettes to e- cigarettes.)
5. E-cigarettes will not renormalise smoking
The report also debunks the notion that e-cigarettes use will normalise smoking:
“Some argue that use of electronic cigarettes, which to a degree resembles cigarette smoking, in places where smoking is currently prohibited might re-normalize smoking and undermine tobacco control efforts. However, although similar in appearance, even cigalike products are easily distinguishable, both in appearance and smell, from tobacco cigarettes. Therefore, use of electronic cigarettes in smoke free places is more likely to lead to normalisation of nicotine devices than to smoking, and hence potential benefit as a support to existing smoke-free policies.”
This is good news for vapers who shouldn’t be made go back outside to smoking areas or beer gardens which they are trying to avoid. We believe the HSE should also take note of the findings of this study and revise their main argument for banning e-cigarettes on all HSE facilities.
Do you think the Irish government should conduct similar research?