After news of some new data from the United Kingdom, it’s starting to look like electronic cigarettes are making people more likely to give up smoking. Public health folks have voiced concern that e-cigs might re-normalize smoking after all the work that’s been done to fight and demonize it. But not, it’s looking like electronic cigarettes discourage smoking more than it encourages it.
Basically, the data found that people were trying to quit smoking more in recent years than before. A significant job can be seen just in the time from 2011 to 2013 even. The data itself doesn’t show or test the actual correlation between an increase in quit attempts and an increase in accessibility to and use of electronic cigarettes. But it does suggest that this is a distinct possibility.
This matters a lot. Public health nuts and anti-smoking fanatics despise electronic cigarettes — and one of the arguments they use that actually works on some regulators and decision makers (because they have so few) is that public e-cig use will re-normalize smoking, make it look harmless to youngsters, and bring about new heights in smoking rates. There are problems with this argument (a lot), but it can be used as a justification for action against electronic cigarettes without needing to prove that they cause sufficient harm. All you have to argue is that the net effect on public health is negative — in this case by encouraging smoking — and along come the hefty vaping bans and sales restrictions.
But that argument may fall flat as more information like this surfaces. It may start looking like the net effect electronic cigarettes have on public health is actually a positive one. If they incite more people to attempt to quit smoking, some of those people will succeed. That’s less damage to them and the people around them. That’s not even taking into account the fact that electronic cigarettes are rapidly proving themselves both far less harmful than cigarettes and capable of permanent replacement of a smoking habit.
All in all, e-cigs may be the best thing to happen to public health in a century.
Some pretty hefty research will be needed to prove any of this, but in a way, some things already appear true. This year, a $1.7 billion industry exists that was around $500 million last year (unconfirmed) and far less in years before that. And yet, smoking rates continue to decline (albeit very slowly). That alone suggests that e-cigs aren’t bringing the smoking habit back into the mainstream.