News that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency will licence e-cigarettes as a medicine by 2016 (when new European tobacco laws come into force) has been widely reported this week. The directive, which will encompass all novel nicotine replacement products, reflects a commitment to ensuring quality and effectiveness.
The premise of e-cigarettes is that they allow people to carry on smoking without ingesting the horrible toxins which are known to be responsible for cancer. Given that around 100,000 people a year die of smoking-related diseases, the availability of e-cigarettes to help people wean themselves off the odious little cancer sticks must be a positive move.
An Action on Smoking and Health survey has revealed that 13% of smokers in the UK use e-cigarettes and they estimate that as many as 400,000 people have replaced smoking with puffing on an e-cigarette. The British Medical Association has tentatively welcomed the advent of e-cigarettes but calls for greater evidence of the safety and efficacy of the devices. Similarly, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence’s draft consultation paper on tobacco reduction highlights the lack of evidence around the long-term safety of e-cigarettes.
The reason that e-cigarettes are growing in popularity is, presumably, because they allow the smoker to enjoy the act of smoking without the associated health risks.
You see, smoking addiction is not just a physical craving, it has cognitive (I see smokers therefore I must smoke), emotional (I’m happy/ stressed) and social (let’s all be mates and smoke together) triggers.
I know this as back in the day I liked nothing better than kicking back after a hard day at work with a glass of chilled chardonnay and a fag. I finally stopped smoking with the introduction of the ban. Nothing’s that good to have to stand outside in the drizzle and cold to ‘enjoy’. Of course I relapse from time to time, usually as a result of a boozy evening out (a rarity since becoming a Mum).
But the cynic in me wonders if the manufacturers of e-cigarettes aren’t just trying to cash in on people’s smoking addiction – as nice as the people at NJOY and ahem, Marlboro are, I’m sure they don’t really have the world’s health on their conscience.
Furthermore, in Paris, apparently numerous bars are promoting the sale of e-cigarettes in various enticing colours and flavours. Now I’m no smoking cessation expert, but I would think that one of the first challenges in giving up smoking is breaking the association between holding a short stick in your hand and having an alcoholic drink…
In short, I don’t have a problem with e-cigarettes for those who need a temporary crutch to help beat their cravings. What I do take exception to is flagrantly encouraging the act of ‘smoking’ in bars and restaurants (and even on public transport). It somehow seems to go against all the progress made to reduce the visibility of smoking in public places.
I certainly hope that future generations – not least my own daughter – don’t feel the need to give smoking (electronic or otherwise) a try to be ‘in’ with the ‘in crowd‘. We’ve come so far with the smoking ban, it seems a shame to start making the act of puffing on a device masquerading as a cigarette acceptable.
Image credit: Copyright Piotr Marcinski / Dreamstime.com Title: Tobacco addiction metaphor