How safe are e-cigarettes? That is the question so many vapers and non-vapers alike have asked. When we have questions like that, we many times turn to our government for answers. We have come to expect them to help shield us from dangerous products, be they pharmaceutical or a simple consumer product. In fact, most governments of developed countries have departments dedicated to this very idea. Whether it is the FDA in the United States or Public Heath England in, you guessed it, England, government plays a big role in public health and we trust that they have our best interests at heart.
Public Health England Supports E-Cigs as Cessation Devices
With so many people relying on their findings and suggestions, it is astounding that two governments, similar in so many ways, can have dramatically different approaches to harm reduction with regards to electronic cigarettes.
In August of 2015, Public Health England released a widely publicized report concluding that e-cigs are around 95% safer than tobacco cigarettes. Building upon that report in February of this year, England’s National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training released a briefing in support of using vapor products as a smoking cessation device. This briefing is, as Clive Bates says, “…a new worldwide high point in the blending of evidence with empathy in official public health advice…”
There are many positive takeaways from the briefing, and Mr. Bates highlights them in his excellent blog discussing the briefing. The most powerful point the briefing makes is in the importance of getting combustible tobacco out of smokers’ lives and not getting hung up on nicotine use. The following passage from “Electronic Cigarettes: A Briefing for Stop Smoking Services NCST”, clearly indicates that they understand the smoke from tobacco cigarettes is the problem, not the nicotine:
“Don’t be alarmed about recreational nicotine. This is a choice some people make, and it is not the business of stop smoking services to make judgments about this. We are not a ‘stop nicotine service’ and if we think getting people off their e-cigarette is a good use of our time, we are ignoring a far more important opportunity to help people quit and to stay off cigarettes. Be open to their choices, and listen to them, especially when they say that they are doing really well with their e-cigarette.”
The Royal College of Physicians Echoes PHE’s Stance on Vaping
In April of 2016, The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) echoed Public Health England’s stance on e-cigs with the release of the report “Nicotine without smoke: Tobacco harm reduction”. In the report, the RCP stated, “E-cigarettes appear to be effective when used by smokers as an aid to quitting smoking” and are proving to be much more popular than NRTs as a substitute and competitor for tobacco cigarettes. The report also states, “the hazard to health arising from long-term vapour inhalation from e-cigarettes available today is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking.”
The US Government Fights E-Cigarette Truths
Now contrast that thoughtful and fact-based approach to harm reduction in England to the state of governmental e-cigarette oversight in America. A recent report on e-cigarettes by the state of California is titled “A Community Health Threat”. Well, it’s clear to see from the title alone that the state of California has an overwhelmingly negative view of e-cigarettes that is a complete 180 degrees away from how England views vapor products. In their report, the California State Health Officer makes no room for the concept of harm reduction and they express an inability to separate nicotine from the ill effects of tobacco cigarettes.
There is more and more evidence that e-cigarettes could be a healthier alternative to tobacco, yet too many American public health officials are resisting this evidence and instead are relying on fear mongering and discredited findings to keep the public in the dark.
E-Cigarettes Are A Public Health Boon
As a society, we have struggled for decades to find an effective way to get people off of tobacco so they can live healthier lives. Now, we find ourselves at a moment in time where there is a real alternative–a real chance for people that have struggled to get away from tobacco, yet the American establishment seems to be pushing back against e-cigarettes. Let’s hope we start following the lead of our neighbors across the pond and do everything we can to help our fellow citizens enjoy a smoke-free life.