Anti-vapers often claim that e-cigarettes will ultimately reverse declining smoking rates by renormalizing smoking, especially for the youth
One of the most commonly debated questions about the efficacy of vaporizing for smoking cessation is whether or not it’s renormalizing smoking among children and teens. For many years now, smoking rates have been plummeting in almost every category imaginable. A big part of the reason behind this is the total societal shift concerning acceptance and perception of smoking.
Anti-vapers think this is at risk if vaping is accepted and supported for smoking cessation. The argument goes that if e-cigarettes are normalized, then children will see smoking as a viable practice again, given their similarity. But the vaping community has rebuked these claims as entirely anecdotal, referencing how vaping just isn’t smoking. Most importantly they are most often used and promoted in a way that’s directly related to smoking cessation, which doesn’t leave much room for teens to see vaping and smoking as the same risk. The United Kingdom has been the world leader in proper vaping utilization for many years now, so it should be no surprise that they are the government choosing to tackle this question directly.
British Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee officially launched an inquiry into this critical question last week. Norman Lamb MP, who is Chair of the committee, said “They [e-cigarettes] are seen by some as valuable tools that will reduce the number of people smoking ‘conventional’ cigarettes, and seen by others as ‘re-normalising’ smoking for the younger generation. We want to understand where the gaps are in the evidence base, the impact of the regulations, and the implications of this growing industry on NHS costs and the UK’s public finances.”
This stance shows the UK’s commitment not to judge vaping based on anecdotal evidence, but rather commission their own research and wait for proper results. If vaping proves to make smoking more acceptable to children, we must then work to implement more stringent safeguards. But if they do not find a correlation, they will avoid going on a never-ending wild goose chase, while simultaneously helping a vast number of people quit smoking. If this is the case, they will be able to better support and advocate for the smoking cessation value of e-cigarettes by having more evidence. Once again the UK provides a valuable blueprint for adequately handling the regulation of vaping.
What We Already Know
Until Parliament can finish their inquiry, the question remains if vaping is inadvertently helping smoking regain influence. But what we do know is that smoking rates are at an all-time low across the world. They continue to drop every year in spite of the exponentially growing vaping industry. So, at least at first glance, it appears unlikely vaping had a substantial adverse effect on the generation that is just hitting their 20s.
Vaping rates continue to be very low among adolescents, especially among teens who have never smoked. A recent Public Health England report that looked at data from over 60,000 11-16-year-olds found that only between 0.1%-0.5% of teens who said they never smoked, regularly used e-cigarettes.
This finding was enough to get Martin Dockrell, the tobacco policy manager for Public Health England, to go on the record saying “The findings in this study suggest that in terms of protecting children we are broadly getting the balance right in the UK. We have a regulatory system that aims to protect children and young people while ensuring adult smokers have access to safer nicotine products that can help them stop smoking.”
Professor John Britton sees this as an opportunity to dispel common misconceptions about vaping in the general public. Prof. Britton is the Director of the UK Center for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham. He’s been publishing peer-reviewed research about preventable diseases for over 20 years and sees more research on vaping as an obvious positive.
There are pros and cons to their chronic use, but Prof. Britton strongly feels that the positives are much more significant than the negatives. For instance, they could prove to be a potent tool in the push toward a “smoke-free” generation. The public health campaign launched last year aims to reduce the smoking rates from 15.5% to less than 12% by 2022.
What We Already Know
It’s fantastic to see the UK once again picking up the slack for the rest of the world in regards to vaping. A proper understanding of issues, as well as proven solutions, are necessary if we’re ever going to improve the pathetic number of people who understand the real benefits and risks of vaping. It’s easy to understand why non-vapers could think of vaping and smoking as similar since they have such a similar look and feel. But ultimately it’s not smoke, and treating it as such is only impeding its ability to be an invaluable smoking cessation tool
Do you think it’s important to study the effects of vaping compared to smoking? Do you care if more of the general public understands how much safer vaping is? How do you think we can get more governments to take steps supporting vaping? Let us know in the comments.