Anti-e-cig campaigners have an attack of the vapers

Stoptober 2013 is now over, but if for smokers who did not take up or complete the challenge

there is still time to make the switch from tobacco to electronic cigarettes before government and health regulators impose the same restriction on e-cigs as those on tobacco products. The annual NHS Stoptober campaign is based on research which suggests smokers who manage to stay tobacco-free for 28 days increase their chance of quitting smoking for good fivefold. The backlash against the success of electronic cigarettes has been fuelled by the tobacco industry, governments and health lobbyists, despite no evidence that using e-cigarettes poses a health risk.

Every year 6 million people worldwide die from tobacco-related disease, but in the 10 years since e-cigarettes have been available, no death linked to their use has been reported. However, at a global level and across Europe and the UK there are calls to limit nicotine levels in liquid nicotine refills and regulate e-cigs  on a par with tobacco products. Although the NHS approved electronic cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid earlier in 2013, during this year’s Stoptober campaign from 1-28 October, there were calls to ban “vapers” (those who use e-cigs) from using them in public places, because of a perceived but unproven health risk linked to passive inhalation of the nicotine vapour used in e-cigarettes.

A major benefit to smokers trying to quit tobacco is that currently it is legal to use electronic cigarettes in enclosed public places such as restaurants and bars. In 2007 the UK introduced a ban on smokers lighting up in public because of the very real risk of passive smoking, leading to many pavements in city centres now being crowded with smokers, as well as pedestrians having to inhale the smoke as they pass by. Electronic cigarettes helped tackle this issue as smokers no longer had to loiter outside a bar or restaurant if they wanted to smoke, as they could simply use an-e-cig instead. However, last week some London restaurateurs spoke out against the use of e-cigarettes on their premises, with one restaurateur even calling for a ban on them in restaurants.

Speaking to the London Evening Standard newspaper, Bruce Poole (chef and owner of the Michelin-starred Wandsworth eaterie Chez Bruce) said he had considered banning e-cigs as they looked “real” and “raised a few eyebrows” among other diners. However, Mr Poole added that e-cigarettes used in his restaurant “admittedly gave off an odourless vapour”. Jacob Kenedy, chef and co-owner of restaurant Bocca di Lupo in London’s Soho area,  even suggests that vaping e-cigs in restaurants where tobacco products are banned makes it seem as though vapers are being irreverent and are giving “an e-middle finger” to their fellow diners.

“Out of consideration to others, e-cigarette smokers should choose to smoke only where smoking is permitted,” he says.

The success of electronic cigarettes in helping smokers quit tobacco lies mainly in the fact that using an electronic cigarette offers smokers the closest experience available to smoking a cigarette, including handling a cigarette, “lighting up” and inhaling the odourless nicotine vapour. However, e-cigarettes avoid the dangers of passive smoking by producing no tobacco smoke or harmful tar. The nicotine vapour is inhaled in a liquid which acts as a carrier and it is this liquid and its safety, as well as the levels of nicotine in liquid nicotine refills, which anti-e-cig lobbyists have been targeting in order to prevent smokers trying to quit or cut down on tobacco from using electronic cigarettes in enclosed public places.

Some countries such as Brazil and Canada have banned e-cigs outright citing potential health risks, and several US cities have also implemented bans. Cigarette manufacturers have complained that the lack of regulation of electronic cigarettes gives them an unfair advantage in the marketplace, at a time when tobacco products are subject to stringent health warnings. Many cigarette manufacturers are now joining the bandwagon and producing their own brands of electronic cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes have not only made inroads into tobacco company profits, they have also gone mainstream with sponsorship deals, including Glasgow’s Celtic and Rangers football clubs.  Such sponsorship deals have prompted criticism from anti-e-cig campaigners, and in September the British Medical Association (BMA) Board of Science wrote to both football clubs asking them to reconsider and pointing out that sport was a health-promoting activity.

Dr Andrew Thomson wrote that football clubs “should be leading by example to encourage healthy living rather than advertising a smoking product, which contains the addictive substance nicotine”.

Celtic and Rangers football clubs reportedly made no comment, apart from the fact they had noted the contents of the BMA’s letter. Tobacco sponsorship for sport was outlawed by New Labour, after the Secretary of State for Health, Frank Dobson, announced in 1997:

“We recognise that some sports, like some smokers, are heavily dependent on tobacco sponsorship. We will therefore give them time and help to reduce their dependency on the weed.”

For many ex-smokers, switching to electronic cigarettes has been the only workable solution to quitting what could well have been a lifelong habit stemming from pre-teen years.
NHS data from 2009 suggests that smoking tobacco products costs the NHS £5bn every year and accounts for as many as one in five deaths in the UK. With the EU Tobacco Directive seeking to regulate electronic cigarettes, smokers looking for a smoking cessation aid have a window of opportunity to make the switch to e-cigs and enjoy the current freedoms before regulation comes into effect in 2016. Some rail companies have already banned electronic cigarettes; but for some ex-smokers, e-cigs have been a lifesaver, freeing them from the risk of high levels of carcinogenic smoke and tar, as well as the expense of smoking. Using e-cigarettes is roughly half the cost of smoking leading brands of cigarettes and one refill nicotine cartridge can supply the equivalent of between 20 and 40 cigarettes, depending on “puff”. To quit the “weed” today, order a Magnifecig starter kit or browse Magnifecig’s wide range of flavoured nicotine refills, available in different strengths of nicotine from zero to 36ml.

Comments are closed