While U.S. government health agencies include e-cigarettes in their decades-long attack on tobacco harm reduction and safer tobacco alternatives, public health leaders in Britain are telling the truth about e-cigarettes.
The UK’s National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training last week issued e-cigarette recommendations for practitioners and services via a “briefing” document. As Clive Bates noted (here), it “represents a new worldwide high point in the blending of evidence with empathy in official public health advice.” Furthermore, it represents a powerful antidote to the dangerous misinformation campaign being waged by the FDA, CDC, NIH and other U.S. agencies and organizations.
The new briefing follows positive British government reports on e-cigarettes issued in 2011 (here), 2014 (here) and 2015 (here).
Britain’s message is clear: “We begin by acknowledging that e-cigarettes are considerably safer than smoking cigarettes, are popular with smokers and that they have a role to play in reducing smoking rates.” The briefing dispels dark myths that are the staple of tobacco abolitionists, including the shibboleth about nicotine.
The briefing addresses, in common sense terms, the risk of e-cigarette-related poisoning of children, a subject that is wildly exaggerated in the U.S. (here):“Nicotine does not cause smoking related disease, such as cancers and heart disease. These are caused by other chemicals found in tobacco smoke. Nicotine is addictive however and it is why people continue to smoke despite knowing about the harmful effects of tobacco. Nicotine in e-cigarettes poses little danger to adult users.”
Should health professionals recommend e-cigarettes to smokers? This is anathema in the U.S.; in Britain, practitioners are encouraged to:
“Familiarise yourself with e-cigarettes…Be positive when speaking about e-cigarettes. When you say: ‘We can’t recommend e-cigarettes’, people hear: ‘E-cigarettes are no good’. Instead choose words that convey a positive message such as: ‘We can’t supply them, but we can certainly offer the extra support that will help you stop smoking if you buy your own e cigarette’… Don’t push people to come off their e-cigarette…Some practitioners feel it is important to get people off nicotine as soon as possible, but in fact longer-term e-cigarette use can be a protective factor against relapse back to smoking.” (original emphasis)
Regarding the chance of exploding e-cigarettes, the briefing advises:
“As with any rechargeable device, like mobile phones and laptops, it is important to charge with the correct charger and not to leave an e-cigarette unattended whilst charging. Ensure that you buy from reputable suppliers and avoid generic charging equipment.”
What about harmful chemicals and secondhand vapor?
“Some studies have detected chemicals in e-cigarette vapour that are known to cause health problems. However, these chemicals have been found at very low levels that are unlikely to represent a serious risk to health. When e-cigarettes are used within normal operating levels (e.g. not overheated), there are far fewer harmful chemicals present in their vapour than in tobacco smoke. If the e-liquid is being overheated it tends to produce an acrid, unpleasant taste – you will know if this happens!...There is no evidence that secondhand vapour is dangerous to others; however, it helps to be respectful when using e-cigarettes around others, especially non-smokers.”
These are only a few examples of the “evidence and empathy” offered in this enlightened British report. Available here, it should be required reading for all federal, state and local authorities in the U.S.