It’s time for a health check. E-cigarettes have been around for almost 10 years on the global market, and eight years in Great Britain. We were quick to adopt the stop-smoking liquid-delivery devices back in 2008 and show no signs of stopping. UK users have risen from 700,000 people in 2010 to an estimated 2.8 million users as of May this year, which is an incredible 300% rise. But what’s the verdict on the health implications of our beloved vapour gadgets.
Health Reports On E-cigarettes
The harmfulness of e-cigarettes through long-term use is still yet unknown. However, the gap in knowledge is narrowing by the day. We can safely say today, that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than tobacco cigarettes as found by Public Health England last year, and according to the Royal College of Physicians, they are likely to benefit public health in the long-term. The report by the RCP concluded at the end of their report “Nicotine Without Smoke” that promotion of using e-cigarettes as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking, and the discouraging of use among youth and never-smokers will likely generate significant health gains in the UK.
For some time, since the historical Surgeon General’s Report of 1964 which stated without doubt that smoking causes cancer, there has been a view that a decline in smoking rates and subsequent rise in obesity rates “might be at least somewhat related.” They certainly weren’t wrong about the smoking and cancer link, however, the argument that stopping smoking would actually make you put on weight is a big stretch. The report’s suggestions relied on the evidence that smoking is linked to appetite suppression and that people had gained weight after quitting smoking. The difference for vapers, is that many people have documented weight loss after using e-cigarettes to quit smoking. This view ignores the many other possible links, such as the rise in unhealthy processed foods containing high amounts of sugar and fat, growing workloads and less opportunities for exercise. The many lifestyle changes that occur when people give up smoking without replacing it with anything else.
Global Views On E-cigarettes
Views on e-cigarettes have been mixed across the globe. And in a way, it’s easy to see why some assume that e-cigarettes must be harmful to health through association to normal cigarettes. But they cannot be viewed in the same class. The reception of e-cigarettes has been largely unfair, through scandalous reporting in the media, and efforts by big tobacco and big pharma companies to corrupt scientific research to mislead and deceive the public with inaccurate findings.
According to a World Health Organisation representative, Gundo Weiler, “e-cigarettes cannot help smokers quit smoking” and they don’t expect “the introduction of e-cigarettes to decrease smoking prevalence because e-cigarettes are not an alternative to smoking”. This was the statement released during No Smoking Month this month. And they are of course incorrect statements. It’s disappointing to see another set of unfounded claims made in the face of a positive movement that is actually supporting people stopping smoking. The latest reports reveal that smoking prevalence in the UK has decreased by 6.4% since 2007, when e-cigarettes were introduced onto the market. Also stop smoking success rates have improved significantly in line with e-cigarette use for quit attempts. As in 2010 stop smoking success rates sat at 13.4%, this has increased to 20.7% in 2016, and e-cigarette use for quit attempts have risen from no reported cases in 2011 to over 35% of all quit attempts by the end of 2015. It is, yet again, misleading and unsupported claims like these from authoritative organisations like the WHO that dilute the progress e-cigarettes are making for public health, and the public image they hold.
Views from the other side of the debate are somewhat more positive. Bristol University Professor, Marcus Munafo has said that “E-cigarettes offer one of the greatest opportunities to improve public health since the 1960s”. A claim which is supported by the findings of both health institutions; PHE and the RCP. Professor Marcus Munafo is an expert in psychological biology. He was part of the team that released the study from last month which confirmed e-cigarettes put less strain on smoker’s hearts than tobacco cigarettes. He called for action not to restrict smoker’s access to e-cigarettes, or overstate their potential harm through use, as this will put people in need of smoking cessation off from switching from smoking to vaping.
With the growing body of evidence that shows how e-cigarettes are improving people's lives for the better, and more and more health organisations are pledging their support for them, we believe e-cigarettes are here to stay. Without a doubt, they are having a positive impact on people's lives, helping millions of people at least switch from smoking tobacco to vaping, which is a far less dangerous health choice, and will help them lead longer, healthier lives after avoiding the thousands of carcinogenic toxins present in tobacco, as well as the many more associated illnesses, diseases and death that comes with smoking.