Health Experts Say E-Cigs Could Save 50,000 Lives Each Year
Last week, the World Health Organization issued an official statement on electronic cigarettes, urging extreme caution and immediate regulation. Now a London-based coalition of health experts are condemning the WHO remarks as misleading and arguing that ecigs could potentially revolutionize public health and save 50,000 lives per year in Britain alone. The full rebuttal was published in the journal Addiction this week. Authors included health experts from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University College London, the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University, and the National Addiction Centre at King’s College.
In the rebuttal, the health experts claimed that the WHO made statements that were erroneous and the actual scientific evidence was largely misrepresented. Based on current research data, scientists believe that for every one million smokers that switch to vaping, there are 6,000 premature deaths prevented per year. Using those calculations, if every smoker in England switched to ecigs, there would be 50,000 lives saved every year. With such incredible potential to stop smoking-related deaths, it seems absolutely ludicrous to caution people against vaping.
While the WHO claimed that ecigs could potentially act as a gateway to lead youth into tobacco addiction, the health experts say there is no evidence to support this claim. In fact, studies show that less than one percent of the young people that report trying ecigs have never smoked a cigarette. It is nearly always kids that have previously smoked cigarettes that experiment with vaping.
The health experts also took issue with the WHO’s claim that ecigs contain toxins and should be banned indoors. The rebuttal pointed out that any known toxins are so minimal that it is comparable to breathing normal air while walking down the street in any busy city. Furthermore, the experts argue that ecigs offer smokers an effective route to smoking cessation. While the WHO asserted that ecigs might keep people chained to nicotine, the health experts argued that this is simply not true. In fact, ecigs are every bit as helpful as purchasing nicotine patches at the local pharmacy.
Professor Peter Hajek from Queen Mary University said the WHO announcement was highly damaging and inaccurate. “These WHO recommendations are actually detrimental to public health. E-cigarettes could have a revolutionary effect on public health if smokers switch from cigarettes to e-cigarettes,” he explained. Hajek argued that banning ecigs would essentially be the same as telling every household to build fires in every room of their homes because there is the potential for central heating systems to malfunction and cause injury. Which is riskier – an open fire indoors or a central heating system? The same holds true for ecigs. The risks of discouraging ecigs is far worse than any risk smokers might encounter by switching to vaping.
Professor Robert West from the University College London called the WHO’s statements “puritanical” and “ridiculous”. He insisted that their recommendations did not reflect any of the current scientific evidence about vaping. In reality, research shows that smoking rates are declining as the ecig industry expands. West pointed out that less than 0.2 percent of vapers are nonsmokers and the majority of people choose ecigs as a bridge to smoking cessation. He said there is actual evidence that vaping is more effective than traditional nicotine replacement therapies.
“This is about smokers who are killing themselves, Everyday they carry on smoking they lose six hours of life expectancy,” West said. “England has one of the most liberal regimes in terms of e-cigarettes use in the world so if there was going to be a problem it would be here… I completely understand concerns about potential risks from this phenomenon but it is vital that public health experts separate opinion from evidence.”
Professor Ann NcNeill from King’s College agreed that it was time for the WHO to look at the scientific evidence rather than just assert their personal biases. “The fact that in England we are not looking to ban e-cigarettes in public places is right and in line with the evidence. But I think there are still concerns about the implications of the European Tobacco Directive,” she told the press. “It will restrict marketing and the strength of the products which will take off the market some products that help smokers quit.”
NcNeill pointed out that e-cigs have been so effective for London smokers that some NHS smoking cessation clinics were now utilizing electronic cigarettes in their programs. It’s obvious to see that ecigs work by simply looking at the numerous changed lives. It’s time for the WHO and other global health agencies to examine the scientific research that surrounds vaping and stop making suggestions based on personal opinions and preferences.