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Electronic cigarettes could save thousands of lives a year, say experts

A new editorial published in the British Journal of General Practice has hit out at “alarmist” criticism of the devices.

Image: e-cigarette via shutterstock

LEADING PUBLIC-HEALTH experts in England have hit out at policies legislating against e-cigarettes.

new editorial by researchers from University College London (UCL) argues that the way current evidence has been presented on electronic cigarettes has been misleading.

The paper says that, for every million smokers who switch over to e-cigarettes from tobacco, 6,870 premature deaths could be prevented each year.

There are around 985,000 smokers in Ireland, meaning that over 6,000 lives could be saved a year in Ireland by e-cigarettes.

The study was carried out in UCL’s Department of Epidemiology & Public Health and written by Professor Robert West and Dr Jamie Brown.

The UK is estimated to have around 9 million smokers. A complete switch to e-cigarettes by all of those could mean a potential reduction of around 60,000 premature deaths a year according to the paper.

On the potential health damage of the e-cigarette devices it is noted that research on the toxicology of the vapor shows it to be over 20 times lower than tobacco smoke.

The authors dismiss recent commentaries that have questioned whether the vapor produced by the devices is as dangerous as cigarette smoke. These claims are dismissed as “bizarre” and “alarmist”.

The editorial is also critical of the idea that electronic cigarettes contribute to the normalisation of smoking in society.

The recent ‘Smoking Toolkit Study’, a monthly survey of smoking in England issued to over-16s, was referred to. It showed the introduction of electronic cigarettes had lead to higher numbers of people quitting.

Electronic cigarettes as a gateway into smoking was also disregarded in the paper.

On this Professor West said:

Current e-cigarette use in young never-smokers is so rare that we cannot even test the idea that it could act as a gateway.

Speaking about the findings, Dr Brown said:

E-cigarettes present both an opportunity and a threat to public health – at the moment there is a sense that some prominent public health scientists are treating it purely as a threat.

This follows calls last month from the World Health Organisation (WHO) for tougher legislation to be brought in against the devices. The WHO called for the banning of their use indoors and for the prevention of their sale to children.

Read: WHO calls for ban on smoking e-cigarettes indoors

Also: E-cigarette company up in smoke

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