The Welsh government is pushing ahead with legislation to ban smoking e-cigarettes in enclosed spaces, in a move that will put vaping on a par with smoking. Mark Drakeford, the Welsh health minister, claims that electronic cigarettes are a “gateway” to tobacco and risked “renormalising smoking”.
The proposals form part of a new public health bill, which also aims to make it illegal to hand over tobacco to under 18s. Professor Drakeford told The Times:
“The bill will mean that anywhere you can’t use a conventional cigarette, then you won’t be able to use an e-cigarette either. It will prevent the re-normalisation of smoking.
“We have worked so hard in Wales to try and bear down on the harm that smoking does – and allowing e-cigarettes to be used in the way they currently are risks undoing the progress that has been made.
“Last year 5,450 people in Wales died last as a result of diseases that happened simply because they became addicted to tobacco.
“The Welsh government has a responsibility to create the conditions which enable people to live healthy lives and avoid preventable harm to their health.”
But Professor Robert West of University College London disagrees. He told Breitbart London that Professor Drakeford has no statistical analysis to back his claims that e-cigarettes play a role in re-normalising smoking.
“I completely understand his moral position when it comes to smoking but in my opinion he, and the Welsh government, are being misled by a barrage of anti e-cigarette propagandists.
“Here in England we have published survey results that show there is not a skerrick of evidence to support the argument that e-cigarettes encourage smoking. I would still argue that the opposite is the case; the benefits far outweigh the perceived negatives.”
Professor West cites a study published in mid-2014 by the scientific journal Addiction that found on the use, content and safety of e-cigarettes, although long-term health effects of e-cigarette use are unknown, “compared with conventional cigarettes they are likely to be much less harmful to users or bystanders.” The study continued:
“The review of current evidence about e-cigarettes concluded that although there are gaps in the knowledge that require further research, the current evidence about e-cigarettes does not justify regulating them more strictly than, or even as strictly as, conventional cigarettes. Regulatory decisions will provide the greatest public health benefit when they are proportional, based on evidence, and incorporate a rational appraisal of likely risks and benefits.”
In another paper published in Addiction, Dr Jacques le Houezec, co-author and consultant in Public Health and Tobacco dependence in France and Honorary Lecturer at the University of Nottingham, says:
“E-cigarette use has been a consumer led revolution, the speed at which these products have developed and evolved shows just how much smokers are ready to adopt harm-reduction products. The use of e-cigarettes could save millions of lives during this century, and have the most important public health impact in the history of tobacco use.”
Private enterprise gets great results when it comes to stopping people smoking. E-cigarettes are an example of that alongside nicotine gum. For all the millions of pounds that the British government in general and the NHS in particular spend on trying to get people to quit, evidence suggests the best results come from smokers switching to e-cigarettes.
Professor West maintains that, based on statistical analysis, e-cigarettes “proved 60 per cent more successful as a method of quitting than nicotine patches, gums or going cold turkey.”
In a paper published last year in the British Journal of Medical Practice, Professor West is even more approving. He wrote:
“For every million smokers who switched to an e-cigarette we could expect a reduction of more than 6000 premature deaths in the UK each year, even in the event that e-cigarette use carries a significant risk of fatal diseases, and users were to continue to use them indefinitely.”
He says it is vital is that public health experts separate opinion from evidence and present the latter as objectively as possible. That advice is not just restricted to British authorities.
All electronic cigarettes that are currently on sale in Britain would be banned and removed from the shop shelves under new European Union proposals. The commission wants to ban, by 2017, e-cigarettes that produce levels of nicotine above 20 mg per ml, those with refillable cartridges or those designed to taste like tobacco.
Suppliers say that all e-cigarettes currently available would fall foul of the prohibition.