Posted on 21st August 2018
With the release of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on E- Cigarettes seventh report session the real nub of the matter has once again come to a head.
Government has to decide once and for all if it is going to get behind electronic cigarettes (from vaping to heat not burn products like IQOS ) as a viable tool to assist smokers in their quitting/transition journey.
For years (and quite rightly in my opinion) they have stepped back from publicly declaring what was brand new technology as a way of helping smokers give up. Having now been a mainstream product for 10 years globally and been proven to not only be the most successful quit smoking aid out of all other methods but also in terms of health risk, whilst accepting the fact that nothing ingested is perfectly harm free for everyone e-cigarettes by all accounts if nothing is a lot less harmful than traditional smoking.
Public health England have publicly and vocally stated that in their opinion smoking an e cigarette is 90-95% less harmful than smoking a cigarette
Government though does not have it easy. Even given all the evidence both anecdotal and scientific they can’t be seen to encourage smoking. This I believe is the issue. Smoking is a dirty word for all the right reasons (which is why the term vaping exists) using the term e-cigarette by implication ties a vaping or heat not burn product in with a traditional cigarette and therefore by association what government given the current climate would sign up to this?
I believe that if they simply look at these products in terms of quit or transition devices, simply a nicotine delivery device just like a patch or a gum the argument becomes a lot easier.
For those of us old enough to remember Roy Castle (a television presenter and jazz trumpet player) who died from lung cancer having never smoked but was attributed to second hand smoke (side stream) from playing in Jazz clubs. This was a time when I think the tide turned against smoking in public places. The decision makers in government will have a memory of that time and will not want to do anything that would take us back to those bad old days.
The thing is though is that there is no evidence at all about side stream smoke with vaping or heat not burn devices. It simply is not the same as smoking a traditional cigarette but mentally people are struggling to get over the hurdle of seeing smoke (although it is in effect a harmless vapour and not smoke).
The Government needs to take the lead.
Almost all businesses, public transport providers and public places do not allow vaping or Heat not Burn… Why? There is simply no rationale behind this. It has come from fear, ignorance and/or lack of clear guidance.
Take the prison estates as an example. Quite rightly smoking has finally been banned across Prison estates in the UK. The justice secretary alongside HMPS tried to just blanket ban and not allow vaping as a way of delivering nicotine but quickly reviewed this in light of the possibility of riots from prisoners (lest we forget nicotine is a drug) Guess what happened? The prisoners on the prison estates switched to vaping and all was calm. It is not therefore and unreasonable conclusion to assume that an electronic cigarette can be seen as a viable alternative to smoking and it is possible that the e cigarette can satisfy a smokers needs in terms of nicotine delivery.
Time to support E-Cigarettes as a stop smoking aid.
The NHS also seems to be confused about what it is saying. On one hand it says “We support Electronic cigarettes as a stop smoking alternative” on the other it says “We can’t provide it as a stop smoking aid “ this is clearly madness and needs sorting.
I think in summary I would like to condense the above into 4 points
- Continue to monitor and put money into further studies into the health risks of electronic cigarettes and carry out evidence reviews.
- Fully integrate electronic cigarettes and Heat not burn into the government smoke free campaigns.
- Allow electronic cigarettes and heat not burn products to be used in Public places
- Educate business owners and pub/restaurant owners as to allowing the use of vaping products.
Normal Lamb who is the chair of the committee report said very succinctly,
“E-Cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, but current policy and regulations do not sufficiently reflect this”
Perhaps therefore it is time the Government caught up?
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