A major British medical organization has urged Britain’s eight million smokers to switch to electronic cigarettes, as their best hope of managing to stop smoking.
The government-backed report, published by the Royal College of Physicians, summarizes the studies carried out so far on e-cigarettes and concludes that the benefits of “vaping” far outweigh the potential risks. According to the report, e-cigarettes are helping more people than they are harming them and the devices are 20 times less harmful than conventional cigarettes.
The authors of the report estimate that if every British smoker replaced normal smoking with vaping, about 75,000 lives could be saved each year. They have called for e-cigarettes to be prescribed on the NHS as soon as they have become regulated.
Officially referred to as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), e-cigarettes deliver nicotine to the user, without delivering the carcinogens that are found in cigarette smoke. They now far outrank other smoking aids such as nicotine patches or gum and have become the number one quitting aid in Britain.
This is the first genuinely new way of helping people stop smoking that has come along in decades. E-cigarettes have the potential to help half or more of all smokers get off cigarettes. That’s a huge health benefit, bigger than just about any medical intervention.”
John Britton, U.K Center for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, University of Nottingham. Leader of the committee.
This conclusion is expected to be controversial in the United States, where experts are divided in their opinion over the risks versus benefits of using the devices. Some view e-cigarettes as the best chance in generations for 40 million American smokers to quit, while others have focused on the potential harmful effects such as the potential for extending smoking habits, the devices acting as a gateway to traditional cigarettes and the long-term health effects the vapor could turn out to have.
Smoking remains the biggest cause of preventable death in the US, with smoking-related illness accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year. Now a multibillion dollar industry, the popularity of e-cigarettes has spread more quickly than the government has been able to regulate them.
The current report has looked at e-cigarette research over the last ten years, including studies for and against their use. It found that e-cigarettes are only 5% as damaging to health as traditional cigarettes, a conclusion that some American experts are saying has been overlooked in the rush to condemn the devices.
The report’s authors write: “The emergence of e-cigarettes has generated a massive opportunity for a consumer as well as a health care-led revolution in the way that nicotine is used in society.”
As the technology becomes more advanced, they say, “so the vision of a society that is free from tobacco smoking, and the harm that smoking causes, becomes more realistic.”