Smoke without fire: Just how safe are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes could reduce smoking-related deaths by 50,000 – despite a recent report calling for their regulation.

Tobacco-related fatalities could fall by 6,000 per year for every one million smokers who switch to an e-cigarette, according to a study by University College London (UCL).

However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) called for governments across the globe to regulate the devices in August, amid fears they pose unknown health risks.

And with more than two million people in the UK are now using vapour, concerns remain but a Manchester group insist they are playing a role in helping smokers quit altogether.

Chris Love, Senior Manager of the Manchester Stop Smoking Service, said: “We need to acknowledge that they are helping some people to quit tobacco and can play a part in harm reduction/cutting down.

“If clients come to our service as smokers and choose to quit with the help of e-cigarettes then we will support them.”

His vows are reflected in the findings of a report by public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

In a study published in July, ASH found that 56 percent of former smokers using e-cigarettes do so as a means of quitting tobacco entirely.

WHO also claim that exhaled e-cigarette vapour contains harmful toxicants which can affect bystanders in a similar way to passive smoking.

This is another argument that has been dismissed by UCL’s research.

UCL’s report states: “The vapour contains nothing like the concentrations of carcinogens and toxins as cigarette smoke.

“In fact, toxin concentrations [in e-cigarettes] are almost all well below 1/20th that of cigarette smoke.”

Damian Roberts, proprietor of Vapours, an e-cigarette retailer in Stalybridge, told MM: “They use ingredients we have in everyday food products and kids medicines, so as far as I’m concerned I don’t have an issue with [them] at all.

“I’ve been on e-cigarettes for two years and still am. From the moment I picked an e-cigarette up I’ve not had a cigarette since.”

The 37-year-old also said business had not been impacted by negative reports, and that measures are taken to ensure that the nicotine refills used in e-cigarettes are safe.

“We have all our liquids certificated. They are tested and regulated by the people who supply us, so I just go for the trusted suppliers of the liquid,” Mr Roberts said.

Several other studies also dismiss claims that e-cigarettes are harmful, including a report from King’s College London which said comments made by WHO were ‘misleading’.

Professor Ann McNeill, an expert on tobacco addiction at King’s College, said: “e-cigarettes are new and we certainly don’t yet have all the answers as to their long-term health impact, but what we do know is that they are much safer than cigarettes.

“WHO’s approach will make it harder to bring these products to market […], putting us in danger of foregoing the public health benefits these products could have.”

It would appear that despite the need for further research, e-cigarettes pose a much smaller threat to health than tobacco products.

Nicki Laurence, a 57-year-old retiree from Solihull in the West Midlands, uses social media to advocate the devices.

She said: “If e-cigs are taken away from us people are going to die, it’s as simple as that. We want them secured for people in the future who haven’t switched yet, because they can save millions of lives.

“They’ve never killed or seriously harmed anybody that has been vaping them in nearly 10 years. Why would anybody in their right mind want to stop that happening?”

There are currently few restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes in the UK, but many retailers refuse to sell them to anyone under the age of 18.

Reports suggest that regulations will soon come into force, but to what extent is currently unknown.

Image courtesy of BBC News via YouTube with thanks

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