Canada has joined the U.K. in rejecting the fear-based ideology of American tobacco control, and supporting vaping as a positive alternative to smoking.
A comprehensive literature review conducted by the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C. (CARBC) at the University of Victoria concludes that fears of vaping being a gateway to smoking are unfounded. The researchers concluded that e-cigarettes are actually replacing smoking rather than encouraging it.
“Fears of a gateway effect are unjustified and overblown,” said principal investigator Marjorie MacDonald in a press release. “From a public health perspective, it’s positive to see youth moving towards a less harmful substitute to tobacco smoking.”
The review also concluded that vaping is at least as effective helping smokers quit as other “approved” cessation methods, like nicotine replacement therapy or Chantix.
The review is titled “Clearing the Air: A systematic review on the harms and benefits of e-cigarettes and vapour devices.” It was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. University of Victoria PhD candidate Renée O’Leary was the project coordinator and lead author on the report. Dan Reist, CARBC assistant director, is a co-author, along with Marjorie MacDonald and Tim Stockwell.
The review concludes that e-cig vapor is much safer than tobacco smoke, containing only some of the dangerous chemicals in smoke, and at far lower levels. They did note that some potentially dangerous vapor constituents haven’t been fully studied yet.
“The public has been misled about the risks of e-cigarettes,” concludes Stockwell. “Many people think they are as dangerous as smoking tobacco but the evidence shows this is completely false.”
The researchers recommend that Canadian health authorities accurately communicate to the public the relative risk of vapor products versus the known dangers of smoking. They even suggest that public health should develop strategies to help smokers find affordable, safe vapor products.
“In conclusion, we recommend that Canadian regulation of vapour devices be driven by best available evidence with a view to supporting improved public health outcomes,” says the report. “Policy should not be driven by ungrounded fears of a ‘gateway effect’ but, rather, be geared towards helping tobacco smokers quit and ensuring that only the safest devices are legally available, thereby reducing harm for both direct and second hand exposure.”
The scientific review comes two months after Canada announced that it will soon regulate vapor products. A major revision of its Tobacco Act is in the works. Canadian vapers should contact their elected officials to urge them to use the recommendations of the CARBC review as a guide to the legislation.
This review follows similar efforts from Public Health England in 2015, and last year’s “Nicotine Without Smoke” from the Royal College of Physicians. Both organizations concluded that vaping was at least 95 percent safer than smoking, and encouraged physicians to recommend e-cigarettes to their smoking patients.