The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) in Britain has called electronic cigarettes “beneficial to public health” and the “public can be reassured that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking.”
In their latest study: Nicotine Without Smoke: Tobacco Harm Reduction, the RCP came to numerous conclusions including that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking. The RCP says it is “unlikely” that vaping is even 5% as dangerous as smoking — and may be substantially safer than that.
Here are some other key points from the RCP:
- E-cigarettes are not a “gateway” to smoking: Vaping is embraced almost exclusively by those who are using or have used tobacco;
- Vaping does not “normalize” smoking: There is no evidence that never-smokers, and teens in particular, are drawn to e-cigarettes and will end up smoking as a result
- E-cigarettes are, for many, an effective smoking-cessation tool and people are more likely to try quitting if vaping is available as an alternative;
- The potential long-term harm of e-cigarettes is unknown but there is no question the harm is less than tobacco.
While electronic-cigarettes can optionally contain nicotine which is known to be addictive, it is actually the smoke itself which is harmful as opposed to the nicotine. The nicotine can be safely classified as innocuous, much like caffeine.
Indeed the nicotine and caffeine comparison is very valid, as coffee drinkers may be addicted to the caffeine but it is actually the sugar (or high fructose corn syrup) found in coffee or cola products which is harmful when drank excessively.
The RCP states there should be regulation especially to protect children, but goes on to state that ensuring products are safe and standardized rather than discouraging their use by smokers is the appropriate strategy.
Electronic-cigarettes are the first smoking cessation device which has not been treated as medicine but rather as a a socially acceptable alternative to smoking. Ex-smokers turned vapors proudly blow out clouds of vapor, satisfied in the fact that they have kicked a habit. Yet this gives off the impression of users gaining pleasure from the product instead of solely using it as a medicine. Therefore, the image of vapors comes off as people who have found a loophole which allows them to smoke again rather than people who have beat an addiction by tackling more than the just the nicotine craving but the act of smoking itself.
This study comes on the heels of a New York judge ruling that vaping is not smoking and smoking laws were irrelevant to smokers.
Will these latest rulings and studies stop the Liberal government in Ontario from proposing sweeping new regulations which would change the definition of an e-cigarette to include “e-substance,” expand the list of places where e-cigarettes cannot be sold and set out rules for their display and promotion? Only time will tell.
It is safe to say that if a new delivery-room procedure reduced deaths of mothers during labor by 95%, it would be widely hailed as a groundbreaking achievement in medicine and be covered by multiple news outlets. If anything is improved by 95% it would be celebrated. But when it comes to smoking tobacco, which is lethal – there has been no celebration of this new technology which is saving lives.
By not embracing this new technology, we are in fact encouraging smoking. The RCP said that if regulation “makes e-cigarettes less easily accessible, less palatable or acceptable, more expensive, less consumer friendly or pharmacologically less effective, or inhibits innovation and development of new and improved products, then it causes harm by perpetuating smoking.”
It should be noted that the RCP is hardly an agency which is pro-smoking in any way. They are ahead of the curve in their studies: In 1962, two years before the US surgeon general officially linked smoking to disease for the first time, the RCP was there issuing strong warnings on the dangers of smoking.
This is not a study which should be ignored. Tobacco smoking is one of the top single greatest preventable causes of death. Now we have a way to make it 95% safer. So should we embrace that or ban it because it appears to enjoyable?
“The growing use of electronic cigarettes as a substitute for tobacco smoking has been a topic of great controversy, with much speculation over their potential risks and benefits,” writes RCP advisor John Britton in a prepared statement. “This report lays to rest almost all of the concerns over these products, and concludes that, with sensible regulation, electronic cigarettes have the potential to make a major contribution towards preventing the premature death, disease and social inequalities in health that smoking currently causes in the UK.”