A study indicates that the continued comparison of vaping and smoking from both sides is ultimately hurting public perception
Vaping has been harkened as a potential game-changer for the smoking epidemic for a long time. In fact, ever since e-cigarettes were first created and studied, they have almost always been looked at in direct comparison with traditional combustible cigarettes. But given that they are a nicotine replacement therapy meant to help people quit smoking more safely and comfortably, the comparison is unavoidable.
However, researchers are now finding that constantly aligning the two by studying them together could have some real negative consequences in the way people view vaporizers. Those negative opinions in the general public could lead to some poor decision making on the part of lawmakers. A report published in the Nicotine & Tobacco Research journal took a look at these possible consequences.
The lead author of the paper, Matthew Olonoff, is a PhD student at Northwestern University in the Feinberg School of Medicine. As the paper states, the continued alignment of vaporizers with cigarettes gives people “a false sense of what dangers exist.” The paper goes on to state that studies on e-cigarettes on their own need to be conducted so that we can “better understand what role (their) unique characteristics have.” The general consensus of the paper is that vaporizers need to be studied in their own right before hasty or misinformed decisions are made, both by individuals and governing parties.
The primary message of this paper is also supported by many other scientists. Among this number, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, a well-respected leader in studying tobacco and e-cigarettes spoke out on the topic. Farsalinos says that the risk of nicotine dependence posed by e-cigarettes is nowhere near as dangerous as the results of smoking cigarettes. The benefits of vaporizers far outweigh the adverse effects in Dr. Farsalinos’s eyes, and this needs to be taken into account in policy decisions that affect how they’re discussed in the media
The FDA’s Vaping Crusade
This message is especially harrowing given the recent actions of the FDA, where Olonoff’s message has clearly fallen on deaf ears. Not only has Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner, openly stated that he prioritizes ending teen usage of vaping products over the safety of the 37.8 million adult smokers who could benefit from them, but the FDA has also lumped vaporizers in with cigarettes in all their policies and initiatives. First, they categorized vaporizers and e-liquids as tobacco products, purely because of the presence of nicotine, since there isn’t any actual tobacco used in common vaporizers. Then, last month the FDA launched changes to their national anti-smoking campaign with modifications to include warnings about vaporizers.
The ultimate message the general public gets from all this is that e-cigarettes are dangerous. Even people who already subject themselves to the dangers combustible cigarettes often see e-cigarettes as hazardous. As a result, they are understandably less willing to try the products that could improve their health and longevity. Things are so bad that polls have found only around 13% of adults understand that vaping is much safer than smoking.
What needs to be focused on is the facts of vaping’s safety. Even though the majority of the information we have still directly compares vaping with cigarettes, the differences are clear. For one, vaping has been proven to be at least 95% safer than cigarettes. Furthermore, a study that measured e-cigarettes against other nicotine replacement therapies found that e-cigs were the most effective of any smoking cessation tool. More effective than nicotine gums, patches, and even prescription drugs.
These are the sorts of facts that the general public needs to understand about vaporizers if they’re ever to reach their full potential. They are much safer than smoking, and very effective in helping people quit. More research still needs to be done, and new information about vaporizers arises every day. But it is with these messages of positivity that the general public needs to see e-cigarettes, and not as little more than an alternative form of smoking.
Do you think the constant comparison with smoking is hurting the perception of vaping? How can we teach about the benefits of vaping without comparing them to smoking? Do you think that this issue should be taken seriously by the vaping community? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.