Some Vapers argue that engaging in the media’s – Ecig’s healthy or harmful – debate just leads us into a discussion that has irrelevant parameters, Ecigs are not a medical device. Their position is that as adults we should be free to enjoy nicotine recreationally however we choose and that it is our right to do what we like with our own bodies so long as it does no harm to others. This liberal (small ‘L’), ‘individual freedom’ stance has many strengths – in the UK adults are permitted to drink alcohol as part of normal social and recreational behaviour, this is widely accepted in our society despite the fact that alcohol is known to be a contributory factor in a wide variety of antisocial behaviours. In comparison vaping an Ecig does not unduly effect others around us, yet Vapers face the threat of legislative action to control, curb or curtail our habit. Unfortunately whatever the merits of ‘individual freedom’ are it must be recognised that a parallel argument has been made for the legalisation of Cannabis without much success. Governments like to ‘Govern’.
WetherspoonsEcig, not always designed to mimic a Cigarette
J.D. Wetherspoons have forbidden the use of ecigs in any of their pubs, their rational for this is that staff face difficulty recognising the difference between Vapers and smokers. Given that the trend in Ecig design is moving away from the mimicking of tobacco cigarettes in shape, size and colour, J.D. Wetherspoon’s argument will soon be (if not already) irrational however they are unlikely to reverse their decision especially given that they where the first major UK chain to ban smoking in their pubs. J.D. Wetherspoons are perfectly within their rights to dictate our conduct on their premises, as we equally, are within our rights to choose not to go to their pubs.
The French Government looks likely to ban the use of ecigs in public buildings and Italy may also soon do so too. Their excuse for this planned action is that passive vaping may be harmful and that vaping ‘normalises’ smoking and may become a ‘gateway’ to smoking however there is no evidence that any of these excuses have any validity. It seems that politicians view ecigs as nothing more than a way of circumventing the smoking legislation that they have enacted and therefore it must be stopped – they fail to see that vaping and smoking are two very different activities and that there is a realistic potential for the former to largely replace the latter to the great benefit of many people. Unfortunately I think that it is probable that the UK Parliament will follow the lead of the French and Italian legislators and introduce similar restrictions here too. Despite a general trend toward civil liberty freedoms being given to the citizens of Europe it seems that the association of vapers with smokers that is perceived by politicians, makes us an exception.
Personally I think it is valid to conduct research into any health implications that may result from the use of ecigs, if there are any long term risks then knowing about them can help me make an informed choice as to whether or not no vape. It does though seem obvious that vaping is likely to be less harmful than smoking tobacco, it’s the main reason that many of us choose to vape as an alternative to smoking, there is however, a central difficulty in presenting this as an argument for our continued freedom to vape. Because ecigs are not classified as medical devices they are not judged to be worthy of consideration as a potential aid to smoking cessation, conversely if ecigs were to be classified as medical devices then the time and financial requirements needed to get a medical licence for each individual product would restrict development and innovation to the point that ecigs as we know them would no longer be available. It is a classic ‘Catch 22’ situation.
The recent National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) advice on smoking policy accepted the principle of ‘harm reduction’, sensibly conceding that the use of nicotine delivery systems other than cigarettes is preferable however they did not endorse the use of ecigs specifically, because as a non-medical device, it is outside of their remit. Despite this NICE director, Professor Mike Kelly, did say that he will tell patients that using e-cigarettes is “better than smoking.”
I think that we all would accept (and even welcome) legislation that bans the sale or marketing of ecigs to children under 18 years old and also support the enforcement of the various consumer product and health & safety legislation that already exists with regards to ecigs however if the Parliaments of both the European Union and the UK wish to encourage the revolution in the health of smokers through ‘harm reduction’ that is promised by ecigs then they must not stifle this opportunity with restrictive or heavy handed legislation. Vaping as a substitute for smoking needs to be positively encouraged by policy makers and medical professionals in order to fully capitalise on the potential benefits to the approximately 20% of the UK population that smoke tobacco.
The probable health benefits of vaping over smoking are clearly demonstrated in a report entitled ”Electronic cigarette: a possible substitute for cigarette dependence” that was published in Monaldi’s Archives for Chest Disease Journal last month, it is a scholarly work looking at our current knowledge of ecigs in relation to their usefulness in harm reduction for smokers. I am reluctant to ‘cherry pick’ a quote or two for fear that readers might imagine that they do not represent the overall picture provided by the report which everyone should read for themselves (pdf – Click Here) however I can’t resist just giving this little taste of its overall tone… “Electronic cigarettes, for its specific characteristics, could be used as a lower risk substitute for tobacco cigarettes. This tool may prove to be a hopeful solution for reduction in the use of traditional cigarettes and their related risk, with the pros of these products clearly outweighing the cons”.