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Sunday 24 September 2023 Dublin: 18°C
Ireland’s health bodies, cancer charities and societies need to follow the facts and treat electronic cigarettes with an open mind, argues Joe Dunne.

THERE ARE  1.3 BILLION people who smoke worldwide. Premature deaths from smoking amount to approximately 1.5 million each year. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that in the 21st century, on current trends, there will be 1 billion premature deaths due to smoke related illnesses. The public health value of e-cigarettes may be to reduce this by hundreds of millions, if the promise is fulfilled.

Recent research done by Public Health England (PHE) has shown what we knew already, that e-cigarettes are less harmful, 95% less so, than tobacco cigarettes. People who smoke need another option apart from QUIT or DIE and the e-cig gives them that option. It gives them another choice in their life to reduce the harm they cause themselves by smoking.

Reasoned approach

The UK has a reasoned approach when it comes to e-cigarettes, Ireland as yet has not. The UK public health community will identify a possible risk and then look to find the risk. Cancer UK has done so with e-cigarettes and found no gateway to smoking via vaping. Ireland’s public health community vocalise and exaggerate the potential risks with no back up or research to prove what they are saying.

Ireland is all about the possible risks of e-cigs and not the possible risks of vaping as compared to smoking. If you have a theory that you do not prove, does it become a myth? The answer in my opinion is yes.

shutterstock_272625431 Shutterstock / Andrey_Popov Shutterstock / Andrey_Popov / Andrey_Popov

For me smokers need to see this as a big plus in their battle to quit smoking, another option which has been proven to be less harmful and also more successful than other NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) products. The Cochrane Library recently published a report which showed people attempting to quit smoking, without professional help, are approximately 60% more likely to quit using e-cigarettes than NRT.

Another recent study in the UK suggested that vaping can be a gateway to smoking in children. In reality, the stats show that in 2013 22% of 11-15 year olds smoked and in 2014 that figure dropped to 18%. Surely it’s clear that experimentation with vaping is not currently proving to be a gateway to smoking amongst young people as the number of of juveniles smoking continues to decline?

Smoke for nicotine, die from tar

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) in the UK have released figures that show 2.1 million people there using e-cigarettes, while 700,000 have stopped smoking and 1.3 million people use both. The UK stats office has shown that e-cigarettes are predominantly used by smokers and ex-smokers. Almost none of those who never smoked were using e-cigarettes.

Nicotine, the active drug in tobacco, is not the primary cause of harm in smoking. For four decades now it has been understood that people who smoke do so for nicotine. That isn’t what kills them, they die from tar. Nicotine doesn’t cause cancer, cardiovascular disease or respiratory conditions that dominate the cited ill effects of smoking.

In Ireland we need public health officials to start looking at e-cigarettes as a less harmful alternative to smoking and to support the use of them by smokers. Where are the open minds in cancer, heart and respiratory charities and societies? The message for others is simple: stop believing the rhetoric of prohibitionist activists and anti-corporate campaigners and take a cool hard look at what is really going on and what the evidence tells you – then act accordingly.

Joe Dunne is the managing director of VIP E-Cigs Ireland.

Read: Vaping is about 95% less harmful than smoking

Read: Revenue and gardaí need to clamp down hard on the owners of rickshaws before it’s too late

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