I turned my back on ecigarette news for 24 hours (off playing a game to review it) and I come back to good news and bad news. ASH UK have produced a new factsheet on the use of electronic cigarettes in the UK. You can download it in PDF form [here].
Summary of findings
- An estimated 2.1 million adults in Great Britain currently use electronic cigarettes.
- About one third of users are ex-smokers and two-thirds are current smokers.
- The main reason given by current smokers for using the products is to reduce the amount they smoke while ex-smokers report using electronic cigarettes to help them stop smoking.
- Regular use of electronic cigarettes amongst children and young people is rare and is confined almost entirely to those who currently or have previously smoked.
2.1 million adults in Great Britain currently use electronic cigarettes. This is good news. That’s 2.1 million adults either reducing or stopping their use of lit tobacco.
About one third of users are ex-smokers. I’ve seen this being commented on negatively. That vapers are deluding themseves into believing that they’ve stopped smoking. That it’s a “misconception” to say that a vaper is a non smoker. I would love to ask these people if they believe that someone using a nicotine inhaler has stopped smoking, because I would say that they have. Whether they can stay stopped is another matter. I haven’t smoked a cigarette or even wanted to for ninety seven days. Since I started smoking I have never before been able to state that I am free from craving lit tobacco. I don’t really seem to crave a vape in the same way. Remember that the accumulated health benefit of vaping for the rest of your life is statistically greater than just one more month smoking tobacco, then quitting cold turkey and never relapsing. Quitting cold turkey and never relapsing is a very statistically unlikely outcome for any smoker. It takes 6 – 8 attempts over 10 years for the average smoker to give up completely.
Two-thirds are current smokers. This is a snapshot; while some of these people will duel fuel for the rest of their lives, some will move away from smoking. Every cigarette not smoked is a triumph from the harm reduction point of view. Scare stories about ecigarettes are as likely to make vapers and smokers say, “to hell with it, I may as well smoke a fag” as to stop non smokers taking up the habit.
The main reason given by current smokers for using the products is to reduce the amount they smoke while ex-smokers report using electronic cigarettes to help them stop smoking. I respectfuly suggest that as a vaper who has no intention of stopping my vaping I am also less likely to relapse to smoking. If I run out of juice, of either the power or nicotine variety, while out I know where I can get a disposable. At least I can right now – after 2016 that may become more of an issue. More grist to the argument that ecigarettes should be as freely available as tobacco. Oh yes. Nearly forgot. We aren’t using them to get round no smoking bans then. No. We told you that too.
Regular use of electronic cigarettes amongst children and young people is rare and is confined almost entirely to those who currently or have previously smoked. Yup. No gateway.
Yet the gateway effect is still being touted as a possibility. Here’s the bad news. NHS choices have taken this report and done things to the conclusions that made my jaw drop. Balance? What balance? I Quote: “…also suggests that the current position of e-cigarettes not being a gateway to nicotine addiction could quickly change.” Because companies are advertising to the target audience of adult smokers, and those adverts are being misinterpreted by people outside of that target audience. Suddenly the current and historical use of ecigs will shift? Highly unlikely, not impossible, but still sounding like a last straw argument against ecigs. They go on to say that:
A course of NRT is designed to wean you off nicotine forever, by reducing the dosage. No such option is available for e-cigarettes – claims that manufactures are selling the products for altruistic reasons are debatable.”
A course of NRT, which has a 95% failure rate, is designed to wean you off nicotine forever by reducing the dosage you get. It is very easy to achieve the same result with an ecigarette by stepping down the nicotine strength in the juice used. NRT products have also been licensed and approved for long term use, even in combination with each other and while still smoking in order to cut down tobacco use. I see no difference between how NRT products are being used and how ecigs are being used. What the medical profession have to work out is if the goal is getting people off tobacco with all of it’s harm, or nicotine which is a natural part of our diet, and for which no one tests negative. The NHS choices article still overstates the case against nicotine, and does so in such away as to rubbish the fine line they’re trying to draw between ecig use and NRT use. For the other side of that argument please see The Great Nicotine Myth. Claims that the manufacturers of NRT products are selling them for altruistic reasons are just as debatable in this context, especially with the controversy surrounding certain smoking cessation products.
There was no honest negative spin that could be put on this report, and yet people in positions of trust are trying to do so anyway. Of course ecig advertising shouldn’t be aimed at children. The ASA is taking steps to ensure that it isn’t now, and the UK Committee of Advertising Practice are making sure it won’t be in the future by drawing up guidelines. Just leave it at that.
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