KUALA LUMPUR, July 10 — The recent ban on the sales of e-cigarettes by the US city of San Francisco has left public health experts in the United Kingdom at a quandary.
Some feel that such a move could actually do more harm than good.
The direction in the UK has been to promote vaping as a way to quit smoking, and as a form of harm reduction. A 2015 review of existing literature concluded that e-cigarettes were 95 per cent less harmful than smoking tobacco.
A recommendation by a National Health Service (NHS) taskforce has been to urge doctors and nurses to reassure patients who smoke that vaping is safer.
The head of tobacco control at Public Health England, Martin Dockrell, said to The Guardian that San Francisco was very much “at one end of the spectrum – the abstinence-only, prohibition-style approach”. This reflected the abstinence-only view which is dominant in tobacco control.
He said that the US Food and Drug Administration and the federal government were more concerned of the role played by e-cigarettes in “on-ramp” where young people would begin using nicotine. This was opposed to “off-ramp” where smokers are trying to quit.
“Alcohol, smoked tobacco, cannabis, smoking or vaping – all of them are legal but the least harmful is e-cigarettes and they’ve banned them. Not just sales to young people, which we’ve done in this country, but for adults too. That is particularly difficult to understand.”
Earlier this year, PHE published an update of its evidence review which stated that only 4 per cent of people trying to quit had used e-cigarettes.
A major reason behind the opposition to vaping is due to the involvement of tobacco companies such as British American Tobacco, Imperial, Philip Morris International, and Japan Tobacco International which have all diversified into e-cigarettes.