The nature of the e-cigarette industry is like treading on eggshells. Though it is growing at an unprecedented speed, there remains a taboo associated with the health effects of electronic cigarettes, so what can be done?
Health officials from The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), the world’s longest established public health body with over 6,000 members both in the UK and internationally, has released a report demanding smoking to be banned from anywhere near schools, beer gardens and restaurants. Health chiefs across the UK have been urged to adopt a less negative attitude towards e-cigarettes and rather embrace the battle against tobacco based smoking which is essentially causing the most amount of deaths in the UK. The RSPH has calculated that the number of tobacco related deaths this year so far stands at 64,613.
The report which is titled Stopping smoking by using other sources of nicotine focusses on encouraging the use of non-tobacco nicotine products, mainly e-cigarettes to help smokers wean themselves off cigarettes. With summer upon us, many have responded to the latest report with certain negativities and see it as a particularly strange time to dissuade people, as many enjoy sitting in a beer garden smoking but it is about time smokers understood the implications of tobacco based products. Smoking kills more people per year than the next five largest causes of preventable deaths combined. The report stated:
‘Given that the evidence to date so far suggests that non-tobacco nicotine containing products are safer than cigarettes, we should ensure that we utilise these products to their full potential for smokers’.
The RSPH says a public education programme is needed to differentiate the problem of nicotine to addiction. What many do not realise is that nicotine is as harmful as a cup of your daily morning coffee and that chemicals such as tar and arsenic in tobacco cigarettes is what is considered dangerous, rather than the nicotine itself. The report has noticed a lack of education and has addressed a need for NHS stop smoking services to offer more help for those seeking to end a habit they know is damaging their health. Currently smoking cessation services offer alternative nicotine replacement therapies such as gum, patches and lozenges, but rather more services should provide behavioural support for those who wish to quit tobacco and use e-cigs. RSPH has stated that many services should follow in the footsteps of Leicester and north-east England, where services such as these are already on offer.
The issue remains that e-cigarettes is currently unregulated. Though the health effects in the long term have not been identified, The RSPH has said; though they would rather people didn’t smoke at all, they have come to understand that a transition to nicotine rather than using tobacco will make a huge difference to the public’s health.
The RSPH has also advocated to license all tobacco sellers so local authorities can ban sales by any shops who fail to obey legislation such as age restrictions and display bans. The society which commissioned an online survey of 2,072 adults from polling company Populus earlier this month said they were concerned to find that 9 in 10 still regard nicotine as harmful. The RSPH has also called for the mandatory sale of NRT’s in shops selling tobacco and has urged for e-cigarettes to be re-named to nicotine sticks and vapourisers to nicotine control products.
The report does not come as a surprise to many health officials as the number of people using e-cigarettes stands at 2.6m which is one in seven tobacco smokers.
In a move to help smokers abandon the nasty habit, vaping could be the next best solution and though it will not eradicate the use of nicotine entirely, it will definitely help those wishing to quit and take pressure of NHS services. Public Health England, a government body has commissioned a review of evidence on e-cigarette safety and the behaviour of tobacco and e-cigarette users by academics at Kings College London and Queen Mary University. The results are due to be published in the next few months and will identify any immediate problems with the safety of e-cigarettes.
A voluntary ban has already been consulted in two public squares in Bristol as well as Brighton and Hove council initiating a voluntary ban in children’s play areas as well as extending the ban to beaches and other open spaces. Not to mention, the Welsh government has extended the ban on tobacco smoking to enclosed public spaces and second-hand smoking has been banned in cars carrying under 18’s which is to be implemented from October this year.
What is more, The Department of Health in England said ‘the best thing a smoker can do for their health is to quit completely. However, for those not ready to quit, evidence shows using e-cigarettes, in the short term, poses a lower risk to health than smoking’. They wish to regulate nicotine non-tobacco containing products to ensure they are safe to use.
Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at health charity ASH, was extremely positive regarding the proposals from RSPH, saying ‘scientists have known for many years that it’s the smoke in cigarettes that’s deadly, not the nicotine. Unfortunately, this is not well understood by smokers, medical professionals or the media, many of whom still think nicotine causes heart disease and cancer.’
The Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (Ecita) has welcomed the recognition that e-cigarettes have a role to play in reducing the harm associated with smoking. For the first time, e-cigarette companies could be provided with the financial help they have needed. Ecita has stated that ‘it is unfortunate that so much misinformation has been disseminated about electronic cigarettes in the last few years. This has contributed significantly toward a growing dear and confusion surrounding these products’.