Unfortunately, the news that surrounds vaping is often negative and unreliable. Now evidence on the health benefits of e-cigarettes over cigarettes is building momentum. More people are speaking out positively about the potential of vaping. In the past couple of weeks, we have seen two positive e-cigarette news articles. One published by The Times and the other courtesy of The Guardian. Does more need doing to help vaping realise its full potential?
The Times: “Don’t let this British Success go up in Smoke”
Matt Ridley, author of the article seen in The Times began by explaining the positive effects that e-cigarettes have had on smoking rates as he stated “In 2016 only 15.8 per cent of adults smoked, the second lowest number in Europe, compared with 19.6 per cent in 2012”.
Ridley refers to the IBVTA’s written evidence to the E-cigarette inquiry which states “Unlike traditional cessation methods, vaping is empowering. It represents a market-based, user driven, public health insurgency. That is why it is so successful. No taxpayers’ money has been spent.” It’s great to see the IBVTA’s work being noticed and its expertise taken into consideration. The organisation, alongside Public Health England has been a strong contributor to the success of the e-cigarette industry in the UK.
Ridley understands this and explains that the success is not due to the government. He says “This success is not the result of deliberate government policy”. Reminding us how they had previously lobbied for an e-cigarette ban except for by prescription.
The regulation of e-cigarettes is heavily debated. The majority of experts believe it to be unfair on vapers. That it dissuades smokers from making the switch. It sends mixed messages on the benefits of e-cigarettes. Ridley agrees with this view. Backed up by expert evidence, discusses the irrationality of certain current e-cigarette rulings.
Ridley not only scrutinises the TPD but also slams the Advertising Standards Authority by stating “Yet the companies themselves are forbidden from telling the world about their products through these channels till we leave the EU. Madness.”
It didn’t stop there. He commented on how businesses are forcing vapers to go outside and stand with the smokers in designated areas. He concluded that “This reinforces the false message that vaping is as dangerous as smoking.”
The worry from Ridley is that these regulations are stinting the growth of an industry that has great potential. An industry that is “saving lives on a huge scale while saving consumers over £100 billion so far.”
The Guardian: “The evidence keeps piling up: e-cigarettes are definitely safer than smoking”
Days after the Times article release, The Guardian also produced an encouraging piece. Written by Professor Linda Bauld, a health expert and e-cigarette advocate. Bauld is a Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling. She is also Deputy Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies. Holding a chair in Behavioural Research for Cancer Prevention at Cancer Research UK. Making her a reliable source in the field of smoking cessation.
While Ridley’s article focused heavily on regulation, Bauld gives strong views on the research conducted on e-cigarettes, the threat of scare stories and the effect that this is having on the perception of vaping.
Despite the positivity around vaping, a 2017 study shows that 26% of people believe that vaping is “at least as harmful as smoking”. Compared with just 7% in 2013. This decline could be down to scare stories. Bauld states “Search for the term ‘vaping’ online and you’d be forgiven for thinking it is an activity fraught with risks. The top stories relate to health problems, explosions and that vaping leads to smoking in teenagers.”
Bauld says smokers have no clear message
Similar to Ridley’s point about vapers being grouped with smokers. Bauld said that smokers have no clear message that vaping is safer than smoking. This is true and with the current restrictions in place. It’s hard to rectify this even with the accumulation of many positive studies.
Bauld rightly explained that “Good sources of information do exist but they are not prominent enough” and called for a public information campaign to shout above the noise and deliver the facts.
These articles are very encouraging and importantly come from reliable sources. Both authors have a good knowledge of e-cigarettes. Both come from different backgrounds. With Bauld focusing on Public Health, Ridley looks at the industry and regulation. We can see arguments on different aspects of vaping, which are both of great importance.
The two viewpoints show that the industry needs help to flourish. Regulation and public perception come hand in hand. With sensible regulation, it will be easier to correct the perception.