Our hats are off to the good people over at Cancer Research UK for their ongoing effort in helping promote vaping as a smoking alternative. A recent blog post written by Alyssa Best and published on the Cancer Research website does an excellent job of illustrating how the well-known smoking charity has adapted its position based on scientific evidence rather than emotion. Best’s article also takes aim at the differences in vaping attitudes here in the UK and the US. Those differences tell a tale of two vaping worlds.
For the record, there are more vapers in the US than there are here. But that is based solely on raw numbers. Their population is also greater than ours. As a percentage of nicotine users, however, vaping in the UK is much larger. There are 2.8 million vapers here as opposed to just over 3 million across the Pond. What’s more, we actually encourage vaping where US government officials are trying to stamp it out.
Tobacco Is the Starting Point
One of the first things Best asserts in her article is that e-cigarettes do not contain or utilise tobacco in any form. What a great way to start! It wasn’t too long ago that scientists and government officials here were lumping e-cigarettes in with tobacco cigarettes simply because vapers can use them to get nicotine. Cancer Research UK and other organisations have come to see the light in this regard: a product that contains absolutely no tobacco cannot be a tobacco product.
Attitudes in the US are just the opposite. From the FDA to the US Congress to the Surgeon General, the general feeling in the States is that e-cigarettes need to be treated just like tobacco products. Now, pay attention to this distinction.
US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy has stated that e-cigarettes “are the most commonly used form of tobacco among youth in the United States.” He doesn’t call e-cigarettes tobacco products; he calls them a ‘form of tobacco’. In other words, he knows full well that e-cigarettes don’t utilise tobacco in any form. He has chosen to treat them like tobacco products for the purposes of regulation.
As Best points out, there is a consensus in the UK that vaping is significantly safer than smoking. Those of us in the industry already know this to be true. If you eliminate both tobacco and the combustion process from nicotine delivery, you also eliminate thousands of chemicals and carcinogens. It’s not hard to understand.
Harm Reduction and NRTs
Next, Best addresses the question of vaping and harm reduction. She reminds her readers that nicotine replacement is not something that got its start with e-cigarettes. It has been around since the earliest days of nicotine gum, the nicotine patch, and nicotine inhalers. Yet no one is raising red flags about their use. It is only vaping that seems to cause a problem.
Best maintains that what people are really concerned about is the culture of vaping. In other words, you’ll never walk down a London street and see a nicotine gum shop. You will not find a trade show being organised to show off the latest nicotine inhalers and patches. Vaping is completely different.
Just like smoking evolved to create its own subculture here in the UK, vaping is doing the same thing. But this is not necessarily bad. Since we know vaping is a major component in harm reduction, it is entirely acceptable for current and former smokers who were once part of a smoking culture to transfer their allegiance to the vaping culture.
Unfortunately, it is the culture that seems to be the place where lines are drawn. If there is a nicotine replacement product capable of creating a culture just as loyal as the smoking culture, critics believe it must be bad. After all, they can’t understand why a person would want to give up smoking only to embrace something else that appears to look like it.
They Don’t Understand Vapers or Smokers
Reading Best’s article all the way through makes one thing painfully clear: critics of vaping do not understand vapers or smokers. They don’t understand why people begin smoking in the first place, or why they keep smoking despite all the scientific evidence proving that their habit is likely to eventually kill them. Proponents of vaping do understand what’s going on.
The modern e-cigarette device is based on one invented by a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik back in 2003. Lik’s own father died of lung cancer as a result of smoking. A smoker himself, Lik was determined he would not suffer the same fate. But he didn’t want to quit. So, he set out to create a product that would allow him to continue his habit without exposing himself to toxic cigarette smoke.
What many people fail to understand is that there are smokers who either cannot quit or really do not want to. They are the primary audience for companies in the vaping industry. We are providing them with a product that offers them the same habit with considerably less harm. That’s not to say that vaping is 100% safe – no one really knows if it is or not. Rather, it is to say we are helping people who would otherwise continue smoking to do something that is magnitudes safer instead. Best knows how good that is, as do we.