In an unexpected step, the Union Government last week issued an advisory to all state governments on banning e-cigarettes. With no evidence to substantiate the decision, it is being viewed as a regressive step. In contrast, as part of a global trend, 55 countries, including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Norway and Canada, among others, have legalized sale of nicotine e-cigarettes and e-liquids as consumer goods.
Although e-cigarettes too contain nicotine like tobacco cigarettes, they do not produce tar and toxic chemicals that cause most tobacco-related deaths across the world. Several global studies have shown that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful compared to combustible cigarettes. They also help in quitting smoking.
The Annual Review of Public Health in the United Kingdom focuses on harm minimization and smoking cessation, with alternative nicotine products like e-cigarettes emerging as a promising avenue for people who want to quit smoking.
Compared to vaping, smoking is much more harmful and prematurely kills over half of lifetime smokers. Researchers found that smokers who switched to e-cigarettes showed significant health improvements, including improvement in asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, blood pressure, cardiovascular health, lung function and pneumonia risk.
According to the study, about 60% of current adult smokers in Great Britain have tried electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), and 18% are current e-cigarette users. Over 40% of smokers who try to quit do so with the aid of e-cigarettes.
These findings are also supported by a report from the Royal College of Physicians, in which it was stated that “the hazard to health arising from long-term vapour inhalation from the e-cigarettes available today is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco.”
Researchers in Sweden looked at more than 30,000 adults in the 20-75 years’ age group. Among e-cigarette users, nearly two-thirds were current smokers, 18.3% were non-cigarette smokers and 15% were former smokers.
The Centre’s advisory claims the move is to prevent the youth from getting hooked to e-cigarettes. But without acting against tobacco itself, the government seems to have missed the wood for the trees. E-cigarettes are a relatively new product, and learning how to regulate them is important to those institutions that focus on public health. Regulation will be more useful than an outright ban.