December 16, 2013

A Call to the Welsh Government: Work With Us, Not Against Us, On Ecigs

by: James Dunworth
The Welsh Flag: A red dragon on a white and green background.
The Welsh Flag: A red dragon on a white and green background.

tough on e-cigarettes and harm reduction means easy on cigarettes and harm

Clive Bates, former director on Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and former Welsh Assembly Employee

The Welsh Government has called for ecigarettes to be banned in public places, and launched a series of attacks on ecigarettes via it’s public health twitter account.

In this article, we deal with the arguments, and suggest an alternative approach the government could take.

1. “We don’t know what is in electronic cigarettes.”

Siegel and Cahn (2010) pointed out that while we have yet to identify many of the chemicals in tobacco smoke, we know exactly what is in electronic cigarettes.

And that’s a lot better than what we know is in tobacco cigarettes.

none of the more than 10,000 chemicals present in tobacco smoke, including over 40 known carcinogens, has been shown to be present in the cartridge or vapor of electronic cigarettes in anything greater than trace quality.

Source: Palgrave Journals

Like other ECITA members, we test our eliquid in a government approved laboratory. However, there ARE problems with some small companies who do not yet test their eliquid.

As we answer below is not to attack all ecigarette companies (including the ones that are doing things properly), but to enforce sensible regulation that would make testing of eliquid mandatory.

2. “Using ecigs means you’re still addicted to nicotine. There is no ‘safe’ way to continue smoking”

Using #ecigs means you’re still addicted to nicotine. There is no ‘safe’ way to continue smoking

— Public Health Wales (@PublicHealthW) December 12, 2013

It’s correct that ecigarettes are not 100% safe, but then neither is coffee.

That’s a relevant comparison, because many scientists believe there is an coffee and ecigarettes have roughly the same level of risk.

David Sweanor, former adviser to the WHO on tobacco control, addresses the question of safety by pointing out:

“Rather than the unattainable standard of ‘safe’ we should be thinking in terms of ‘safer’. Despite the risks associated with soccer, I would, for instance, prefer my children play soccer rather than play with live hand grenades.”

(Check this post out for more scientist’s quotes on ecigarettes.)

Crucially, for use in public places, a number of studies have identified that there is no risk for non-users of ecigarettes.

As for addiction, there is emerging evidence that nicotine on its own is not as addictive as nicotine combined with tobacco:

  • ecigarette users use ecigarette less
  • time to first use is longer
  • a study on rats found that rats respond better to nicotine combined with compounds from tobacco than to nicotine on its own
  • scientists such as Dr Ettter believe that because ecigarettes deliver nicotine more slowly, they are less addictive

However, the key point for smokers is that they have access to a product that scientists believe is much safer than tobacco cigarettes.

3. “Some ads for #ecigs call them an aid to quitting. No large-scale evidence they help people quit. Regulation & independent research needed.”

Some ads for #ecigs call them an aid to quitting. No large-scale evidence they help people quit. Regulation & independent research needed.

— Public Health Wales (@PublicHealthW) December 12, 2013

The Welsh Government is  correct that no large scale trial has been carried out. However, there have been a number of small studies which has shown positive results (see here and here). In addition, the fact that 1,300,000 people in the UK use electronic cigarettes show that e-cigarettes DO work for many people.

However, advertising ecigarettes as quitting aids is illegal, so if the Welsh government is concerned about illegal adverts, it simply needs to enforce existing regulations.

It’s also true that more research is needed, but there has already been substantial research into ecigarettes which, so far, has been incredibly positive. (See ECigarette Research for the latest developments.)

Perhaps the Welsh assembly could take the more positive line of supporting ongoing research into electronic cigarettes rather than stating that research is needed?

4. Does vaping normalise smoking?

1 person every 90mins dies in Wales from a smoking-related illness. Anything that normalises smoking is risky.

— Public Health Wales (@PublicHealthW) December 12, 2013

With millions of smokers switching to ecigarettes, which increasibly bear little resemblance to regular cigarettes, surely we’re normalising not smoking?

And with a person dying every 90 minutes from smoking, surely the last thing you need to do is attack an alternative to smoking which even the MHRA admits is orders of magnitude safer than smoking.

Crucially, experts argue that vaping poses no risk to non-users – claims which are backed up by studies such as this

Finally, denormalisation has not been a success, with a fall of just 1% in the Welsh smoking rate since the smoking ban was introduced in 2007.

Perhaps it’s time to try something else?

Why not support a Welsh Industry

Wales is the home of The Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association, and several strong Welsh companies which together employ hundreds of people.

We alone manufacture eliquid in Wales, employ over 30 people (all but one in Wales, all on a Living Wage or more), have nine shops, export all over Europe and have resellers as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

There’s an alternative to attacking Welsh industry…

A Possible Solution: Work WITH us instead of AGAINST us?

The Welsh based Electronic Cigarette Industry Association (ECITA) has designed a framework of regulation for members – a framework that has been described by Trading Standards as:

“…a Code any industry would be proud to have.”

As previously mentioned, regulations include mandatory testing of eliquid as well as a ban on selling ecigarettes to children.

Rather than attacking the ecigarette industry, why not work with it to design sensible regulations to ensure Welsh customers get the best possible eliquid, and help support Welsh industry, jobs and exports?



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