Despite the negative headlines regarding vaping throughout 2016, it is comforting to see UK public health experts encouraging the act of vaping over smoking. In a recent Guardian article, Professor Linda Bauld chose to discuss the increased safety of vaping as compared to smoking. Professor Bauld is one of the most prominent tobacco control public health professionals. She holds the title of Deputy Director at the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies; as well as being a Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling. This is all in addition to completing charitable work with different healthy groups, such as Cancer Research UK.
The Scare Stores Surrounding E-Cigarettes
Professor Bauld, according to the article in the Guardian, attacked media reporters for providing regular ‘scare stories’ regarding the use of electronic cigarettes. This information, irrespective of whether the research is supportive or not, has prompted many individuals to move away from vaping and continue smoking tobacco cigarettes.
According to 2013 statistics, it was found that one in every ten adults residing in the UK believes using electronic cigarettes presents with the same degree of risk as smoking. In 2016, the statistics have not altered much, and the number stands at one in four holding the latter opinion.
In this article, Bauld notes that the perception is incorrect based on scientific research conducted by reputed organisations, such as the Royal College of Physicians. The research found that electronic cigarettes are 95% less dangerous than smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes. According to Bauld, none of the new information displayed in the media ‘scare stories’ has shown signs of scientific research support.
Organisations And Governments Are To Blame
In a brash statement, Professor Bauld targeted the US Surgeon General and the World Health Organisation (WHO) for their damaging reports on the perception of the e-cigarette as a reliable tobacco harm reduction measure. The WHO report suggested that further regulation and bans should be implemented on electronic cigarettes on a global level. In addition, the US Surgeon General’s report commented on e-cigs as being a public health concern. This statement is based on the anecdotal evidence that young adults are using the e-cigarettes – a position not discovered in the annual UK statistics.
The question is why are international bodies publishing reports supported by bad science; thus promoting negative criticism of electronic cigarettes?
The answer is that e-cigarettes are beneficial and effective. This means that they are an increased threat to the financial interests of organisations including the global income from tobacco taxes. Vaping is a free market solution to a large, global public health problem and Britain’s regulation on the e-cigarette may impede some of the vaping free-market advantages.
Ironically, despite the benefit to public health and the belief that the reduction of tobacco harm should be a priority to government bodies, this is not the situation when government bodies are criticising the use of e-cigs. Research shows that when a person vapes, they are avoiding the placement carcinogenic chemicals into the body and the Tobacco Products Directive exists in the UK to encourage this behaviour. Electronic cigarettes cannot be purchased by minors or packaged in a way that they appear attractive to minors; thereby discouraging the use of e-cigs among children.
Arguably the most significant aspect of vaping is that it can assist with the process of quitting smoking. By using electronic cigarettes, the individual will cut down the use of traditional cigarettes gradually resulting in an overall cessation of tobacco use. This reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, and different associated medical conditions for primary and secondary smokers.
Professor Bauld concluded the arguments of her address stating that she believed e-cigarettes to have great potential an alternative to smoking resulting in saving lives. Unfortunately, she felt this could only be realised if government and organisations aggress the criticism of e-cigarettes and communicate honest perceptions with the public. Using ongoing research will provide support for positive information, and 2016 has seen the beginning of several studies significant to the validity of vaping.
Professor Bauld and her colleagues look forward to the findings of the studies, many commissioned by Cancer Research UK. The studies will hopefully provide support for media representation of e-cigarettes and will not be negatively affected by the interests of lobbying parties.