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E-cigs: the safer alternative to smoking?

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No less a body than Public Health England said recently that vaping was safer than smoking and could lead to the end of the traditional cigarette. The pronouncement came in the form of a 111-page review of the product, and was packed with juicy titbits for the pro-vaper; e-cigarettes are apparently 95% less harmful than normal tobacco, and could one day be dished out by the NHS.


The news was greeted enthusiastically by many within the industry, and reinforced the groundswell of support that is pushing smokers towards this new-but-not-actually-new replacement. PHE’s conclusions have been replicated and endorsed by hundreds of other studies globally, mainly showing that the thousands of toxins, poisons and dangerous chemicals found in tobacco smoke are largely absent in the moisture created by vaping.


In Scotland it is estimated that one in 20 of the population are using e-cigarettes. Smoking is dropping across the world “ in the past year alone the smoking rate fell by 10% in the US. There are now around two million ex-smokers who use e-cigarettes in America, while research from last year found that the proportion of adults smoking in the UK had fallen to its lowest level since measurements began, back in the 1940s.


Such is the support for e-cigarettes that veteran tobacco companies are muscling in on the market. British American tobacco recently signed an agreement to buy e-cigarette manufacturer CHIC.


There is still resistance, particularly in Wales. While the general Welsh public is slightly against it, the Welsh Assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee is still considering a ban on the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public and work spaces. Officials believe that the use of e-cigarettes normalises the tobacco culture, and could act as a gateway into the use of tobacco.


The evidence suggests otherwise. In fact, if that were the case there would surely be more of an outcry from the general public, and especially concerned parents and guardians. The reverse is true, signified in stories such as the tale of Manchester teenager Mason Dunn whose e-cigarette was confiscated by his school. The Daily Mail reported that the 14-year-old’s mother Sue had purchased the device to try to wean him off the smoking habit, which started when his father died.


The very fact that this is a story shows that schools such as Kearsley Academy are still regarding vaping and smoking as kindred spirits, and they’re not alone as we’ve seen in Wales.


So why do many other parties regard vaping as more healthy? The lack of toxins such as tar and carbon monoxide in an e-cigarette, which are meticulously tested by e-liquid manufacturers, is an obvious starting point. Nicotine is addictive but has few other damaging qualities. There’s little social stigma as there is no smoke to carry to other people, and it doesn’t damage nails, teeth and hair. Pound for pound it could also be cheaper as well, so it is safer for your wallet.


The evidence continues to mount and there are still sceptics too willing to lump smoking and vaping together. However, if the NHS steps in that may be enough to convince the doubters.