UK recognises e-cigarette potential but Irish bodies slow to act
Featured image: By UKPhoenix79 (Image:British Isles United Kingdom.svg) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
August has been a particularly important month for the electronic cigarette industry. After a number of months watching regulators and legislators on both sides of the Atlantic continue to ‘agree to disagree’ on the power of electronic smoking products to help users quit traditional smoking, it would see that smarter heads have finally prevailed.
This month an expert independent evidence review was published by Public Health England (PHE) which concluded that e-cigarettes are “significantly less harmful to health than tobacco and have the potential to help smokers quit smoking”. The review, which was published on Gov.co.uk and later picked up by The Guardian newspaper, states that according to current best estimates, e-cigarette use is around “95% less harmful” than traditional smoking.
With a level of clarity not yet seen by any publications from counterparts in the Irish health community, PHE found that there is no evidence so far that e-cigarettes are acting as a route into smoking for children or non-smokers and most importantly, no suggestion that e-cigarettes may be contributing to falling smoking rates among adults and young people.
This comprehensive and wide reaching study into the important role that electronic cigarettes could play in the ‘quitting process’ draws input from national cancer research organisations, the NHS and numerous other advocates of pro health, all under the curation of academics Professor Ann McNeill from King’s College London and Professor Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University of London.
Ireland is behind
Although thanks to modern information and communication technology an Irish consumer can easily inform themselves with studies and other data coming from overseas, it’s baffling that there isn’t similar research findings published by Ireland’s health authorities.
As I have said before, Ireland is all about the possible risks of e-cigs and not the possible risks of vaping as compared to smoking. If you have a theory that you do not prove, does it become a myth? The answer in my opinion is yes. The UK public health community will identify a possible risk and then look to find the risk. This is achieved by forensically examining hypotheses related to negative and positive effects of e-smoking and then presenting findings in the most balanced way possible.
Reporting on fears and under-researched, unfounded concerns of negative impacts, (the opposite approach to this type of open and honest publishing of findings), could be hampering the efforts of traditional smokers who are trying to find a way to quit that better suits their needs.
The Next Steps
In the UK, there is talk about licensing e-cigarettes as medicines prescribed by the NHS for people who are trying to quit smoking. Already in Leicester and in London, there are already pilot schemes in place that can equip patients trying to quit with starter kits. The viability of this scheme from the taxpayers’ perspective is yet to be proven, but there are minds at work running the numbers.
In Ireland, it seems we’re a million miles away from the progress our neighbours across the Irish Sea have made with research into electronic-cigarette use. We need public health officials to start looking at e-cigarettes as a less harmful alternative to smoking and to support the use of them by smokers. Once this is achieved, we could potentially start even more important discussions into how the relevant stakeholders could work with the electronic cigarette industry to ultimately support traditional smokers who are trying to quit.
Click here to read about the direct and surprising indirect savings that the switch to electronic smoking can generate.