Some of the world’s top health experts met recently in order to debate the blossoming e-cigarette industry. Previous meetings have seen similar experts promote the benefits of regulating e-cigs and criticising the easy availability of the electronic cigarette product. However, this time, the health experts have agreed that using electronic cigarettes or ‘vaping’ could actually save lives. At the same time, they also agreed that heavily regulating the industry could have a negative impact on people trying to quit smoking.
Researchers including Konstantinos Farsalinos announced that his work into e-cigarettes had uncovered the benefits of using vaping to quit tobacco and traditional cigarettes. He had studied nearly 20,000 smokers who had previously used e-cigarettes. The results showed that more than 80 percent of tobacco smokers had quit smoking after they turned to e-cigs. “They quit smoking…within the first month of electronic cigarette use”, he reports, “That is not seen with other forms of [quitting]”.
He is not the only researcher to see first-hand evidence of the effects of electronic cigarettes. Professor Etter from the University of Geneva has stated that vaping is not only a trend, but could be a way to ensure that smokers conquer their addiction. He has said that regulation could be detrimental to these smokers in the long term. “E-cigarettes….should not be excessively regulated”, as regulations could reduce “the numbers of smokers [switching] to new products”. Etter also worries that regulation will help to boost Big Tobacco companies, allowing them to continue dominating the nicotine industry, forcing most e-cigarette firms out of business.
Alan Blum, a family physician, said that he is recommending e-cigarettes to patients who are struggling to quit smoking. He thinks that vaping is a better option for patients, and that he would rather encourage the use of e-cigarettes than provide “Pharmaceutical products which have side effects and …have not worked”.
The e-cigs debate has a great deal at stake. Farsalinos, along with other researchers, estimate that many smokers, in their millions, will die unless they are able to vaping technology. “If 3% of smokers”, he says, “switch to e-cigarettes [they could]…save about 2 million lives” in the next two decades.”
Critics have often claimed that e-cigarettes are too new to allow experts to understand their full impact on users’ health. However, the experts disagreed with this. Etter said that experts now know enough to recommend vaping and e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking. “Alternatives to smoking don’t need to be one hundred percent safe, [but need to be] safer than tobacco cigarettes. You choose the lesser of two evils.”
The latest discussion among health experts has agreed that vaping is the smart choice for those attempting to quit. If this is the case, why are governments still pushing for the industry to be regulated in such a way that industry growth could be inhibited?