For the first time, a government agency is now officially endorsing vaping as a method to quit smoking. Public Health England, the United Kingdom’s health and well being agency, endorsed vaping last year when it released a study that found e-cigarettes to be “95% safer than smoking”. And in a recently released 46-page document entitled “Electronic Cigarettes: A Briefing for Stop Smoking Services,” it aims to provide guidelines for smoking cessation and recommends vaping as a viable alternative. Not only has PHE found vaping to be safer, but it’s the first government agency to provide official guidance to promote vaping as a means of quitting.
From our viewpoint this is extraordinarily positive, and by any stretch it can be considered a “big win” for the vaping community.
The document is split up into several sections, with detailed information on how e-cigarettes work, how effective they are, and answers to common questions and misconceptions about vaping. It seems to be directed at health professionals fielding questions from the public, and it gives advice on how to handle those questions and concerns in a factual and evidence-based manner.
Vaping advocates will certainly be happy at how the PHE portrays electronic cigarettes. For example, in a discussion on the possible adverse effects, PHE leads off by saying that “although e-cigarettes are not completely risk free, experts agree that they are substantially less harmful than smoking.”
That’s what many of us have been saying for years!
UK vs. US: Large Ocean Divide
All good news aside, PHE’s latest move speaks volumes to the vast differences between US and UK public health officials stances towards electronic cigarettes and vaping. In the UK, vaping is moving to the forefront as a method of smoking cessation, but in the US it’s a completely different story.
Here, the industry seems to be fighting what looks like a losing battle, with stringent FDA regulations looming and very few politicians or public officials coming to our defense. With big tobacco and pharmaceutical companies lobbying against the vaping industry, politicians feel the pressure and are much less inclined to stand up for vaper’s rights. It’s just the way things work in politics.
The PHE’s move is causing the opposite effect in the UK. If the nation’s top health agency is saying good things about vaping, politicians would arguably be less likely to support legislation or policies that restrict vapers’ rights.
Much of the discourse in the US is the work of the anti-vaping lobby, which has become obsessed with proving that electronic cigarettes are as dangerous as traditional ones. It’s a position that has some involved with the anti-tobacco movement a little bit confused, since it has no basis in truth.
We can only hope that PHE’s work to promote vaping rubs off on public health agencies here in the States, and stops what many in the industry now see as inevitable: oppressive and crippling regulation.
Where Do We Go From Here?
With PHE again speaking out about vaping, and only confirming what we already know, many of us sit here wondering what we can do. The best thing you can do is to continue to support and advocate for vaping.
Your support can come in the form of supporting advocacy groups like CASAA and the American Vaping Association: people involved with these groups are working as we speak in Washington to educate politicians on vaping, and dispute the misinformation the anti-vaping lobby puts out on a regular basis.
Advocate among your friends how vaping has helped you. There is truth to power in numbers: the more smokers we can turn into vapers only strengthens our case that vaping is a legitimately safer way to quit.
Yes, it appears that the UK is on board — but we have a long way to go to convince public officials here in the United States – and around the world.