E-Cig as Cessation Method & Harm Reducers

cigarette and e-cigaretteAnother groundbreaking report coming out of England is confirming, once again, that e-cigarettes are not only safer than cigarettes, but that they can be used as an effective path to smoking cessation. The Royal College of Physicians published a nearly 200-page long report entitled, “Nicotine Without the Smoke: Tobacco Harm Reduction.” The report includes information that not only confirms e-cigarettes are leaps and bounds safer than combustible tobacco products, but it also debunks several popular e-cigarette myths in the process.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP), located in the United Kingdom, investigates everything from e-cigarette harm reduction to regulatory strategies in the industry. Overall they conclude that, “in the interests of public health it is important to promote the use of e-cigarettes, NRT and other non-tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking in the UK.”

Their report also cites another recently released study from Public Health England that in addition to showing e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than regular cigarettes, e-cigs can also help you quit smoking.  The RCP report cites this important study, and confirms that they have also seen proof of e-cigarettes having the potential to help smokers quit their habit.

The in depth RCP report touches on both of these issues as well. In the report summary, the researchers state, “E-cigarettes appear to be effective when used by smokers as an aid to quitting smoking.” This is in opposition to the popular theory that seems to be circulating in the United States at this time.

It is actually fairly unpopular among many health organization and especially policy makers in the US to consider e-cigarettes as a cessation method, even though the popular opinion in England has been vastly different. This study and the Public Health England study are paving a hopeful path for the acceptance of e-cigarettes as a public health benefit.

It wouldn’t be the first time this progression has been seen. The RCP has always been prominent in the health research related to tobacco and smoking. In fact, they’re well known for their 1962 report, which revealed the link between smoking and chronic lung disease. That report subsequently caused the U.S. Surgeon General to publish their initial warnings in 1964 about the safety of cigarettes. The RCP’s work is well respected, and may in fact be the most respected health organization in the UK, and certainly a major player on the international health community.

Unfortunately for most of us, this “natural progression” may not move along fast enough. Gregory Conley is the president of the American Vaping Association and the organization released statements immediately following the publication of the RCP’s report. Conley states: “When the RCP told the truth about cigarettes in 1962, it took two years for the U.S. government to play catch up and release its own report. It should not take two months, let alone two years, for American public health authorities to correct their past misstatements about vaping.  The FDA and CDC must seriously consider the RCP’s guidance before moving forward on any new regulations or public campaigns about smoke-free nicotine products.”

The RCP warns against this sort of regulatory strategy as well. “There is a need for regulation to reduce direct and indirect adverse effects of e-cigarette use, but this regulation should not be allowed significantly to inhibit the development and use of harm-reduction products by smokers. A regulatory strategy should, therefore, take a balanced approach in seeking to ensure product safety, enable and encourage smokers to use the product instead of tobacco, and detect and prevent effects that counter the overall goals of tobacco control policy.”

Regulatory issues aside, the researchers clearly show that e-cigarettes could have a big part both in harm reduction for the user and for the environment around them. The reports states, “e-cigarettes deliver a much smaller range of toxins at much lower concentrations than cigarettes, and therefore indicate that harm from e-cigarette use is likely to be far less than that from smoking.”  Citing numerous studies, the RCP backs the research that continues to come out proving that e-cigarettes are far safe and have an important role in harm reduction in our society.

Perhaps one of the biggest concerns about e-cigarettes is that it will renormalize nicotine and as a result could act as a gateway for teens to begin use and develop a lifelong nicotine addiction. Many studies have reported that e-cigarette use is primarily relegated to those who already smoke or would have smoked anyway. The RCP researchers agree, “None of these [e-cigarette] products have to date attracted significant use among adult never-smokers, or demonstrated evidence of significant gateway progression into smoking among young people.”

With nearly 200 pages of analysis of the evidence they collected, the RCP has delved into the issue further than most other reports on the subject. Since they have a historical reputation for prioritizing public health over the interest of large money corporations their report holds a certain clout among the health community. Will the US heed their advice once again? Or will regulation seek to strangle the life out of such a promising industry for the health community and the world in general?


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