It wasn’t that long ago that doctors were actually prescribing cigarettes. The health sector has done a total 180, but that doesn’t stop people from being addicted to nicotine. Many smokers trying to kick the habit need to replace cigarettes with something, but are they just replacing one evil with another? Richard Russell investigates.
From pipes to paper, tobacco has been a seemingly unshakeable vice for centuries. Sixty years ago, it took its place as the must-have fashion accessory and was even considered healthy. It wasn’t until 1957, when researcher Richard Doll established the link between tobacco smoking and cancer, that attitudes started to shift. A widespread advertising ban was set in motion in November 2002, anti-smoking campaigns replaced pro-tobacco propaganda, and by 2007, smoking was outlawed in enclosed and public places – leaving smokers out in the cold… until now.
2004 saw the release of the e-cigarette, the answer to many smokers’ attempts to cut down and quit. Spreading over continents, from China to the US and eventually the UK, the “vaping” craze soon took hold, and the use of the discreet tobacco alternative soon became commonplace in pubs and on previously unbearably lengthy train journeys. E-cigarettes not only offered smokers a lifestyle that they were forced to give up after the smoking ban, but also a healthier and safer substitute, which allowed them to regulate their nicotine intake.
Fast forward to 2012, and e-cigarette sales are up 340 per cent. As education surrounding the dangers of smoking and tobacco increased, smokers appeared to take conscious action in cutting down the risks of cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, smoking causes more than four in five cases of lung cancer, and is by far the most important preventable cause of cancer in the world. Not only was it discovered that 48 per cent of ex-smokers in 2013 used e-cigarettes to help them quit, but a further 31 per cent used them to reduce their intake of tobacco, showing that we are taking active steps to curb our national tobacco addiction.
However, as vaping became more prevalent, the lack of knowledge surrounding the long-term effects of smoking e-cigarettes emerged and EU regulations tightened. When Brits were asked if e-cigarettes should be banned in various places, over 80 per cent of people responded that they should be banned on public transport, 71 per cent said a ban should extend to pubs, and more than half even claimed they would like to see them banned in the street. Already, several train lines, cinemas, pubs and coffee shops have put private bans on e-cigarettes. One set of concerns has to do with safety and standardisation. The UK body that oversees the regulation of medicines,
the MHRA, says e-cigarettes currently available do not meet appropriate standards of
“safety, quality and efficacy”.
Speaking for the e-cigarette industry, Richard Russell from Diamond Mist, interestingly supported these concerns, saying that, “it seems counterintuitive but we are absolutely in favour of stricter regulation.
At the moment, the e-cigarette market has many ethical companies operating within it, but there are also plenty of cowboy operators and we believe the public will continue to not have trust in our products while these companies exist.”
Skeptics and pressure groups have voiced further concerns over the influence e-cigarettes have on children and how it “glamourises” smoking. Be that as it may, findings from a 2013 study by ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) revealed that children who have heard of e-cigarettes
believe correctly that they are less harmful than cigarettes (74 per cent) and over half of 16-18 year olds knew that they contained nicotine.
Is our society preventing the development of something that could reduce the rate of smoking-related cancer, or are we taking the necessary precautions to protect our nation from dangers that are unclear? With e-cigarettes being the most popular nicotine product in 2012 (beating patches, gum and inhalators), the evidence shows that the former may well be true. The confidence e-cigarettes are giving smokers to quit is undeniable, but the question of their long-term safety still hangs heavy in the air