Are you a cigarette smoker who is considering using e-cigarettes and vaping to try and quit your habit?
If you lived in the UK right now, you would likely be encouraged to do it! The Royal College of Physicians published a report about e-cigarettes earlier this year, and in it, the organization concluded that, while there is still plenty of research to be done on vaping, it believes that e-cigarettes are helping people more than they are hurting them.
In fact, it believes that e-cigarettes are about 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes, which is why many British health officials are now encouraging smokers to use e-cigarettes in their quest to quit smoking.
Here in the United States, public health organizations and officials have taken the complete opposite approach to vaping. Rather than encouraging people to use e-cigarettes, they are, in some ways, hiding behind science and a lack of research and telling people that it’s not a good idea to use e-cigarettes as a substitute for regular cigarettes.
Even though smoking kills almost 500,000 people in the U.S. every year—and even though 40 million people in the U.S. smoke at this time and could likely benefit from at least trying e-cigarettes—public health experts and organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are still pushing the idea that it’s entirely too early for them to recommend e-cigarettes as a means of quitting smoking regular cigarettes.
They spoke with many experts and relied on mountains of evidence to come to this conclusion. And while the organizations are unlikely to change their minds right away with regards to supporting vaping, it is nice to see a publication outside of the vaping community taking a stand for e-cigarettes. It may push organizations to reconsider the way they feel about vaping and its potential benefits.
Why U.S. Health Organizations Don’t Recommend Vaping
“The unintended consequence is more lives are going to be lost.”
Many public health organizations like the CDC are extremely concerned about e-cigarettes falling into the wrong hands. They have fought against underage smoking for years now, and by doing it, they have seen some dramatic results.
The youth smoking rates have been cut in half since 2007, and they want to see that trend continue. However, they don’t want to see it continue simply because those teens who might otherwise be smoking cigarettes are now using e-cigarettes. So they have tried to paint e-cigarettes in a negative light at times to discourage kids from using them.
The CDC and other health organizations are also covering their own behinds in many ways when they speak out against vaping. There are still studies being done on vaping, and in the long-term, there could potentially be health risks associated with vaping for those who vape regularly.
So before they recommend vaping, they want to be sure they aren’t putting peoples’ lives at risk. That part of it is commendable, but by taking this approach, health organizations are also turning people off to the idea of using e-cigarettes when they could actually benefit them, especially if they smoke cigarettes heavily.
By the time the CDC gets access to data about the long-term effects of vaping, it will be too late to recommend it to many people who could potentially benefit from it.
How These Organizations Could Be Doing More Harm Than Good
As the New York Times points out, one of the worst things that the CDC and other health organizations are doing right now is perpetuating the belief that vaping is dangerous. They are, again, doing it for a somewhat noble reason in that they want young vapers to understand the risks that could be associated with e-cigarettes.
But the problem is that, in many cases, people are now lumping cigarettes and e-cigarettes together, which makes it seem as though they are both bad for you. We all know the dangers associated with cigarettes and know, without a doubt, that they are dangerous.
But it’s way too early to say that about e-cigarettes, and in fact, many studies suggest that e-cigarettes might actually be good for you when compared to cigarettes. And by not acknowledging that, health organizations might be making a big mistake, according to one expert.
“We may well have missed, or are missing, the greatest opportunity in a century,” David B. Abrams, a scientist at an antismoking group called Truth Initiative, told the New York Times. “The unintended consequence is more lives are going to be lost.”
If nothing else, the CDC and other U.S. health organizations are, often inadvertently, pushing an agenda when it comes to e-cigarettes and making the vaping industry look bad. That could come back to bite them and those who use the information that they provide if vaping ultimately turns out to do more good than bad for smokers.
What the Organizations Should Consider Moving Forward
While no one necessarily expects the CDC and all of the other health organizations out there, both inside and outside of the U.S., to do a complete 180 and throw their support behind e-cigarettes, they should at least consider how other countries are handling the issue and think about how they could handle it better.
David Sweanor, a lawyer for the Center for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa, provided the New York Times with an excellent quote that illustrates the lunacy behind the way these organizations govern e-cigarettes now.
“[The American approach] is the same as asking, ‘What are the relative risks of jumping out a fourth story window versus taking the stairs?’” he said. “These guys are saying: ‘Look, these stairs, people could slip, they could get mugged. We just don’t know yet.’”
It’s an odd analogy to make in the middle of a conversation about vaping, but it’s also an interesting observation. By not endorsing e-cigarettes and, worse, by turning people off to the idea of even considering using them by throwing out theoretical health risks, health organizations are forcing many smokers to continue smoking since they don’t always have many other smoking cessation options.
So why not try to come up with a way to get these people the accurate information they need to figure out whether or not vaping is right for them? It could possibly save a lot of lives, and it could help change the way people view e-cigarettes in the future.