E-cigarettes have frequently become the topic of acrimonious debate. They represent a dilemma for public health. On one hand they offer a less harmful alternative for smokers. On the other hand they are an addictive risk for young vulnerable non-smokers. They may also have risks associated with longer term use or risks that manifest themselves later in a person’s life. There is very little control of quality and therefore safety of many of the different types of e-cigarettes.
Using e-cigarettes is generally known as vaping. I strongly support making e-cigarettes more easily accessible to smokers than smoked tobacco. It is better that smokers quit entirely but many smokers report that vaping has helped or reduce their smoking. There is mixed evidence from clinical studies on how effective they are at helping cessation. However there is one study from the University of Auckland that demonstrates they are as effective as nicotine replacement therapy.
At the moment, I do not support making e-cigarettes more highly regulated than smoked tobacco. That just seems weird and ridiculously inconsistent. However I think what does need stringent monitoring and restriction is how we promote and advertise e-cigarettes, particularly in countries where tobacco advertising in most mainstream media is banned.
Communications about e-cigarettes need to emphasise our lack of knowledge about risks and that if used with nicotine they will be addictive and potentially tie the user to a life-long obligation/burden with unknown risk to health. Non-smokers need to be strongly discouraged. However we also need to make it clear that a switch to vaping if you can’t quit smoking is vastly preferable to continued smoking based on current knowledge.
Finally I’m a scientist and my thoughts and positions are both fallible and subject to change based on good data and research. 🙂