Once again, experts the world over are touting the benefits of e-cigarettes. On March 20th, 2015, health experts at an anti-tobacco conference held in Abu Dhabi defended e-cigarettes putting to rest the widespread concerns that vape devices have the potential to lure teens and adolescents into a nicotine addiction.
Konstantinos Farsalinos, is a researcher from the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in Athens. He told the American Foreign Press that in a study of nearly 19,500 people, primarily from the United States and Europe, 81 percent said they had stopped smoking by using e-cigarettes.
“In fact, they quit smoking very easily within the first month of the e-cigarette use on average,” Farsalinos said, “That’s something you don’t see with any other method of smoking cessation.” However, just two days earlier, the World Health Organization (WHO) chief Margaret Chan spoke out in support of governments that are “banning” and “regulating” e-cigarette use.
Later that week at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi, Chan spoke to reporters, “Non-smoking is the norm and e-cigarettes will derail that normality thinking because it will attract especially young people to take up smoking,” said Chan. “So I do not support that.”
However, other experts at the conference, are quick to write off the WHO’s negative reviews and claims. Jean-Francois Etter is an associate professor at Geneva University, and he believes the WHO stance on e-cigarettes is clearly “political.” He states, “I think that the WHO people should know better than to kill alternatives to smoking cigarettes.”
Etter also knows the danger of the impending regulation in many countries, including the FDA in America. He warns of the dangers of regulation, “E-cigarettes and nicotine and tobacco vaporizers should not be excessively regulated.” Etter believes that over-regulation would “decrease the numbers of smokers who switch to these new products”, benefiting “only the big tobacco industry” whose leaders “will be able to survive in a tightly regulated environment.”
Many smaller e-cigarette companies would agree with Etter, as they are soon going to be feeling the wrath of regulation if ideas do not change. However the greater side effect of regulation, would be if less people did decide to switch to e-cigarette devices, because they had become hard to obtain, lacked variety or became more expensive. The truth… the truth that the WHO doesn’t want to admits, is the more people that switch to e-cigs from regular smokes, the better it is for everyone.
Citing a yet unpublished study, at the conference Farsalinos insisted that “if three percent of smokers switch to e-cigarettes we are going to save about two million lives in the next 20 years.” And Farsalinos is not the first to predict the massive life-saving potential of e-cigarettes. In 2014, Researchers at the University College London estimated that for every million smokers who switch from tobacco to electronic cigarettes, more than 6,000 premature deaths would be prevented each year.
It is strange then that the WHO seems to be supportive of stringent regulation, and even banning in some cases, of e-cigarettes when vaping stand to save such a significant number of lives. The WHO states that tobacco kills nearly six million people a year and that unless urgent action is taken, the annual death toll could rise to eight million by 2030. When e-cigarettes stand to lower that number dramatically, why would the WHO be backing action that is bound to decrease the number of people who try them?
Many experts who review these studies still back them as cessation methods, despite these critics’ opinions. Alan Blum is a family doctor and the director of The University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society. At the conference, he said he would usually recommend e-cigarettes to patients trying to quit, rather than “give a pharmaceutical product which has side effects and which have not worked very well.” Dr. Blum, like a few others at the conference, however, was still concerned about youth use. Regardless he recommends them to his patients, knowing full well they will be far more beneficial to their health than smoking regular cigarettes.
Which is another good point to remember that Etter also makes, “Alternatives to smoking do not need to be 100 percent safe, they just need to be much safer than tobacco cigarettes,” Etter said. “You choose the lesser of two evils.” Any amount of reduction in harm is a benefit, and the harm reduction you see when a person uses an e-cig instead of a cigarette is astronomical. While more research is always needed, the one constant is that experts are continually finding how e-cigs are far safer than their combustible counterparts, containing no smoke, tar, or cancer causing carcinogens.
Still, not all are convinced of e-cig’s benefits. A German delegate at the conference who requested not to be named, argued that e-cigarettes will only lead to “dual use.” It should also be noted that in Germany, e-cigarettes can be bought everywhere by anyone, raising the constituents concerns. “Children buy these and they initiate a smoking habit,” she argued.
Farsalinos, however, insisted that “there is not a single case of a never-smoker who used e-cigarettes and then became a smoker of tobacco cigarettes.”
Even despite her concerns, the German delegate still disagreed with a ban on e-cigarettes. If they are proved to help smokers quit, she believes that “e-cigarettes could easily be sold in pharmacies where you have a controlled product” and ensure they are only sold to adults. However, she added: “We need regulation for this product.”
While it is true that some regulation is needed, over regulation is the true danger. While regulation will be different depending on what country you live in, it appears to be coming no matter what. However, if the devices were available in pharmacies only, that would deter many people from trying them. So few people ask for help quitting smoking, and cutting off people’s ability to purchase these devices in their own time, in their own way, would slow down the millions of lives that these experts are saying can be saved with a switch to e-cigs.
With so many experts continuing to come out in support of the potential benefits of e-cigarettes we can but hope that their words will not fall on deaf ears when it comes to the final word on regulation.