The UK could be bolstered in its bid to become smoke-free by 2030 by making e-cigarettes available through licensed companies – giving smokers confidence that it really is less dangerous, argues Dr. Miriam Stoppard
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As a resolute doctor-in-training, I considered not treating smokers. I figured I couldn’t help them nearly as much as they could help themselves by quitting.
Of course not, but I firmly believe that smoking is so bad for your health that we should do everything we can to stop it.
Then came e-cigarettes.
They’ve always been controversial, and they’re making waves again after Britain’s medicines and healthcare products regulator announced it will look favorably on applications from e-cigarette companies to allow doctors to prescribe them to patients looking to quit the habit.
That put the cat among the doves.
Opponents are fighting on the sides of the BMJ, with Professor Nicholas S Hopkinson of the National Heart and Lung Institute in the YES corner and Professor Jørgen Vestbo and colleagues from the University of Manchester in the NO camp.
Vestbo argues that no country in the world other than the UK will issue a license to classify e-cigarettes as drugs, and with good reason.
E-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid have not been endorsed by any major scientific body as their effectiveness has not been proven.
In the most cited study comparing e-cigarettes to medical nicotine products, e-cigarettes were found to be superior, showing an 18% one-year abstinence rate compared to 10% for medical nicotine.
However, it was found that twice as many people in the nicotine group gave up nicotine completely, as people who use e-cigarettes tend to continue vaping while most people who use medicinal nicotine quit.
The YES camp emphasizes that e-cigarette users inhale vapor created by heating liquid that contains a humectant to retain moisture, nicotine and flavors.
Of course, e-cigarettes are not completely safe, but they do not contain the most toxic component of tobacco smoke – solid tar particles – nor carbon monoxide.
User exposure to other components in e-cigarettes is far lower than that of smokers.
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The government’s independent Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment describes the risk of adverse health effects from vaping as “substantially lower” than smoking.
A respected Cochrane study supports e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool, as do recently updated guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
Tobacco cigarettes have never been subject to regulatory testing and would never be licensed if they were.
But a license for e-cigarettes and the associated review they would receive could boost consumer confidence and reverse misconceptions about relative harms compared to smoking.
Remember, the UK’s goal is to be smoke free by 2030.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/we-should-anything-stop-people-26399187 "We should do everything we can to discourage people from smoking - including e-cigarette licences" - Miriam Stoppard