Between 2012 and 2014 use of e-cigarettes for quitting increased from 3.7% to 11%, while use of “medically sanctioned” nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) declined.
More and more smokers are coming around to e-cigarettes, finding it gives them the best chance to quit smoking. No where is this more evident than in Europe where between 2012 and 2014 the percent of people using e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit smoking nearly tripled from 3.7% to 11%. Meanwhile use of traditional medicinally sanctioned nicotine replacement therapies such as, ironically enough, aerosol sprays and nicotine patches declined. The amount of people who used smoking cessation clinics also sharply dropped alongside the rise in vaping.
Europe has been a model for how to handle e-cigarette’s harm reduction value in spite of a similarly skeptical general public. Europe also has an extremely low number of people who actually understand vaping is a lot less dangerous. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) reported in their annual survey that only 13% of participants thought that vaping was much safer than smoking.
The biggest difference for Europe has been their, albeit begrudging, acceptance of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool. Whereas in America the policy has been to group it with smoking whenever possible. The almost never acknowledge its harm reduction value or smoking cessation utility, for fear of phantom risks that have yet to be observed in the real world. But as the evidence continues to slowly mount, countries like America will eventually be forced to use the blueprint laid out by Europe. One such piece of research was recently published in reputable medical periodical, Lung Disease News.
The study, which was originally published in Tobacco Control, was lead by Dr. William E. Stephens of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Dr. Stephens and his team set out to compare harm from “inhaling aerosol emissions of vaporized nicotine products” with the damage from smoking traditional cigarettes. After looking at the chemical composition of many different types of e-liquids, researchers concluded that “most e-cigarettes had cancer potencies that were less than 1 percent of cigarette smoke.” They also found that the new heat-not-burn vaporizers pushed by big tobacco are still less dangerous than traditional cigarettes but not as safe as e-liquid vaping.
Hopefully this is a sign of a changing of the tides. The more reputable publications, with no relation or stake in vaping itself, that publish research like this, the easier it will become to effectively change the narrative. It was only just last month that newly confirmed FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, reversed the tone of the FDA in regards to vaping when he went on CNBC’s Squawk Box and said “It’s not the nicotine that kills you, it’s all the other carcinogens in lighting tobacco on fire”. He then added “we’ve opened up a pathway to new product innovations that we think can potentially provide nicotine to people who still want to enjoy satisfying levels of nicotine without the risk of lighting tobacco on fire,” If the last month is any indication, public perception of vaping is starting to show its first real signs of cracking.
Why It Matters
If we hope to live in a world that someday eliminates smoking altogether, we have to be willing to use the best tools at our disposal. The perception problem of vaping is only a manifestation of the way most people talk and think about e-cigarettes. If we think about them as similar to cigarettes, it’s only natural when non-insiders so closely associate the two things. That’s why it’s up to those of us who fully understand the differences and benefits of vaping to ensure the narrative always focuses on awareness. Vaping isn’t harmless, but for smokers it presents them with one of the absolute best shots they have at improving their health and well being.
What do you think the best way to educate the public is? What’s the most important benefit of vaping? How important is it that reputable sources post about e-cigarettes in order to improve perception? Let us know what you think in the comments.