Millions of lives could potentially be saved if more people really understood the risks and benefits of vaping says new critique by Dr. Lynn Kozlowski and Professor David Sweanor

In a brand new edition of Addictive Behaviors, Dr. Lynn Kozlowski and Prof. David Sweanor co-author a critique of public health organizations who equate vaping with smoking. They see no value in promoting anti-smoking campaigns that don’t fully explain the relative lower risks of e-cigarettes, in fact they think that kind of stance is actively doing harm. To them this it is fundamentally unethical for health officials to suppress this kind of information from the public. Yet in spite of this it has become the norm. “The FDA and like campaigns and health information websites should follow established ethical principles and accepted communication methods to inform the public of less-harmful tobacco/nicotine products as well as the greater harms of smoking,” said the researchers.

Serious Benefits and Possible Risks

It is becoming more and more agreed upon that e-cigarettes are at least 95% safer than their combustible counterparts. Dr. Kozlowski and Prof. Sweanor agree with these figures, noting that a vast majority of the cancer causing agents that are ingested through tobacco occur via the burning process. A 2016 San Diego State University study of air quality in homes, found no detectable difference in the level of airborne contaminants between indoor vaping and non-smoking households. Vaping is simply a lot safer than cigarettes and the numbers back it up.

There are still those who have issues not related to potential bodily risks of vaping, but rather its effect on our society. Many opponents of vaping, including most public health officials against e-cigarettes, suggest that an increased acceptance of vaping in society will be a gateway to increased smoking in teenagers. But these worries have been shown to be unfounded as smoking rates have continued to plummet among every age group over the last 10 years. In that same time period e-cigarettes have exploded onto the scene and helped bridge the gap between smoking and quitting. Policy makers who subscribe to the fallacy of the gateway theory almost always push abstinence instead of explaining the proven differences. A prime example of this is the FDA’s 2016 “smokeless doesn’t mean harmless” campaign. Sweanor and Kozlowski say of the campaign and those like it, “Research shows the public (a) already knows that smokeless tobacco is not harmless, but are (b) also largely unaware that cigarettes are much more harmful than smokeless.”

Expert Suggestions

In their critique they suggest that information pertaining to the harm level of different products should be freely available to the public. It’s important that individuals can become educated on the real statistics and harm reduction value of e-cigarettes in order to start a change in dialogue. Sweanor and Kozlowski think that this is a matter of ethics because policies of deception ultimately lead to preventable deaths. Acknowledging that people can only make the best decision based on the information they have, they argue that keeping information from the public, instead of spreading it, is extremely detrimental to all facets public health. They note that if e-cigarettes reduce the harm by 90% or more, but only 10% of people believe that there is any benefit in making the switch, then simple math dictates an astounding amount of people are at risk of cancer due to mandated misinformation.

If we as a society really want to help prevent death, we have to move forward with vaping as a smoking cessation aid. Smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death around the world. While the science is still coming in everyday about vaping, a strong consensus is growing for its extreme harm reduction value. This is backed up by research that suggests those who commit to quitting using vaping have more than a 50% chance of succeeding. Like Dr. Kozlowski and Prof. Sweanor suggested, if we are actively suppressing important, potentially life altering information, then this is an ethical issue that must be dealt with swiftly.

What do you think the best way to incorporate vaping into anti-smoking campaigns is? How important is it that research proving vaping’s harm reduction value is supported and spread by the community? Have e-cigarettes helped you, or someone you know, finally quit smoking after years of trying? Let us know in the comments.

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