What’s going on? Are e-cigarettes going to be banned in Wales? You could certainly be excused for thinking that with all the hysteria buzzing about this week after Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford was interviewed by the media.
Of course, that’s not the case at all, despite all the mixed messages!
Fortunately even cynical journalists such as Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 found themselves supporting electronic cigarettes in the face of so much misinformation. The Welsh government are merely considering banning vaping in public places. As one caller to LBC Radio said: ‘They’re making us stand outside with tobacco smokers, breathing in their passive smoke!’ Interesting move, Welsh government…
Mr Drakeford did not dismiss claims that e-cigarettes may help people quit smoking. In fact he remarked that e-cigarettes are sold in some countries by pharmacies as a medicine.
Is that a bad thing Mr Drake? No – pharmacies sell e-cigarettes because experts say they have been found to be even more effective than nicotine patches in helping smokers quit. As for pharmacies abroad selling e-cigarettes, that’s already the case in the UK as well! In fact Vapourlites is one of the biggest brands in pharmacies.
So why, when some countries already sell e-cigarettes in pharmacies and treat them as a medicine, is the Health Minister against them?
"It contains nicotine and nicotine is highly addictive," says Mr Drakeford.
Well, Professor John Britton leads the tobacco advisory group for the Royal College of Physicians, so he is probably worth listening to. What does he have to say on the subject?
"Nicotine itself is not a particularly hazardous drug," he said. "It's something on a par with the effects you get from caffeine. If all the smokers in Britain stopped smoking cigarettes and started smoking e-cigarettes we would save five million deaths in people who are alive today. It's a massive potential public health prize."
And TV Doctor Christian Jessen, speaking on BBC radio recently said: "We’ve got it very wrong about nicotine, it’s a nice drug, it calms, it sooths, in many respects it makes you more alert as well. We have nicotine receptors in the brain so we are almost designed for nicotine.
“Nicotine is not dangerous at all; you can maintain your nicotine addiction for your entire life any other way and have no significant shortening of your life or detrimental effect on your health and that is the single biggest misunderstanding when it comes to smoking. Nicotine is not the thing that causes all the long term health problems that we see in smokers – it is smoking itself.
“So what we can do actually is very simply replace smoking with another form of nicotine delivery and probably the one that is most similar to smoking is vaping using e-cigarettes”.
Vaping delivers nicotine to take away a smoker’s cravings. But it doesn’t deliver the 4,000 chemicals you get when you smoke a normal cigarette. As well as tar, those chemicals include poisons such as arsenic, benzene, cadmium, carbon monoxide and cyanide.
Smoking remains one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK. According to the World Health Organisation, one person dies every six seconds from smoking! But there's some good news too. An estimated 1.3m people in the UK have switched to e-cigarettes. No matter what your age or how long you've been smoking, almost as soon as you cut down or quit the health benefits begin.
Welsh Conservatives described the ban as a "step backwards" for quitters.
Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar said: "There is a clear danger that forcing someone outside into a smoker's hut will put them in temptation's way and harm their health due to second-hand smoke exposure."
What do you think?