E-cigs are a marvel of technology offering smokers a satisfying way of partaking in the pleasures of nicotine without inhaling toxic fumes laced with everything from Carbon Monoxide to Arsenic. They have been growing in popularity and are used both as a safer and healthier alternative to smoking, and as an aid for quitting.
I had originally hoped that they would be welcomed with open arms by all. I had thought that the fact that they can be smoked inside without harming others would encourage cigarette smokers to switch and bring them in from the cold. People would switch in huge numbers, many lives would be saved and, as an added bonus, perhaps smokers would socialise in the pub again instead of drinking cans and smoking in their living rooms.
It has therefore been frustrating to see so much effort being made by swathes of the public health lobby to restrict their use and portray them as a “gateway” to smoking cigarettes. There has been a great deal of scare mongering from the public health police and many un-evidenced assertions have been bandied around in an attempt to hamper a rapidly thriving market.
So I welcome the change in rhetoric and attitude shown in the Public Health England report that dampens concerns about e-cigs encouraging children to smoke and asserts that they are 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco. Unfortunately the recommendation that they be prescribed on the NHS is wrongheaded.
The main argument for this is that encouraging people to quit could lead to 75,000 lives being saved, which would in turn save the NHS money and pay for the prescriptions. However, this is difficult to quantify and seriously questionable at a time when the NHS is in financial dire straits.
Any money saved shouldn’t immediately be ear marked for other things, not when a serious discussion needs to be had about what should and should not be funded by the health service in order to maintain its financial viability.
Also, you cannot sadly cannot account for the fact that many people will take advantage of this policy; getting free e-cigs without making the effort to quit. It would simply be too easy for this to happen and too difficult for doctors to prevent.
Taxpayers should not foot the bill for the campaign to get smokers to quit, which would amount to a large transfer of funds from taxpayers to tobacco companies. This is simply bad policy. On top of the obvious health benefits there is already a major financial incentive because e-cigs are far cheaper than tobacco products.
The director of Forest, Simon Clark, made a very pertinent statement in response to the report:
“If they want more smokers to switch to e-cigarettes, public health campaigners should embrace consumer choice and oppose unnecessary restrictions on the sale, marketing and promotion of this potentially game-changing product.”
Therein lies the real solution. The key is encouraging the industry, putting an end to scare mongering and ensuring that the market is not over regulated and over taxed. The hostility of the public health lobby towards the e-cig industry must end, and the mad drive to ban vaping from public places must be halted, because this in itself is unhelpful and prevents uptake by people currently smoking tobacco.
Don’t put further strain on the NHS and bill tax payers, encourage the industry and allow the market to offer consumers a cheaper, healthier and inviting product that will save lives. For decades the issue of health problems caused by cigarette smoking has concerned medical professionals, well, capitalism found a way- move!