The popularity of e-cigarettes continues to rise after England’s government made an official acknowledgement of the devices’ health advantages over smoking.
Consumption of e-cigarettes, or “vaping,” was stated to be about 95% less damaging than conventional cigarettes in an expert independent review published by Public Health England (PHE), an agency of the UK Department of Health.
In the results of the review, e-cigs came in below pipes, small cigars, and regular cigars with regard to mortality and morbidity costs. PHE was careful to stress that e-cigs are not free from risk, but believes that traditional cigarettes will slowly be replaced by them as scientific evidence continues to accumulate showing their benefits.
England’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies sees the e-cigarette as a treatment device to be used towards the end goal of smoking cessation and also noted, “there continues to be a lack of evidence on the long-term use of e-cigarettes.”
Davies advocated for the marketing of the devices as licensed medicines in order that they undergo more rigorous testing regarding their safety. Currently no e-cigarette has been licensed as a medical treatment like other smoking-cessation products including nicotine patches and gums.
Manufacturers of e-cigarettes object to the process of becoming a licensed medical treatment mainly due to the cost.
The news from the PHE was a shift of position by England’s National Health Service (NHS) on the relatively new smoking devices, of which they had previously been more critical with regard to their safety.
Some of the NHS’s former negative press regarding e-cigarettes may have contributed to the public’s perception that the devices are equally or more harmful than conventional cigarettes, with 22% now holding that view compared to 8% two years ago.
Director of health and wellbeing at PHE, Kevin Fenton stated the dilemma, “The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting. Local stop-smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely.”
The director of the NHS, Simon Clark, advocates that the government stay out of the e-cigarette business and allow consumers to consume the product without unnecessary restrictions on their marketing or sales. Barring any new revelations on their safety, the trend of vaping may indeed result in the improving health of smokers.