An Opinion article by Guy Bentley in the Washington Examiner Jan 30, 2017
A mammoth new report on the public health consequences of e-cigarettes finds there is conclusive evidence that e-cigarettes are less dangerous than regular cigarettes, and smokers who switch to vaping will reduce their exposure to lethal toxicants and carcinogens.
Amounting to more than 600 pages, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine's report attempts to examine the health consequences of e-cigarettes for the population as a whole. All in all, NASEM presents 47 conclusions categorized by different levels of evidence, with "conclusive evidence" being the strongest.
But perhaps what is most interesting about this report is that after years of silence, a major U.S. scientific body has said, in no uncertain terms, what Public Health England, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Medical Association, and a slew of tobacco and public health experts have been saying for some time: Smokers who switch to vaping reduce their exposure to the lethal chemicals which kill half of all life-long cigarette users, and there can be huge public health gains if smokers exclusively switch from smoking to vaping.According to the report, "there is conclusive evidence that completely substituting e-cigarettes for combustible tobacco cigarettes reduces users’ exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens present in combustible tobacco cigarettes." The findings add to the already weighty body of evidence showing vaping to be far less hazardous than smoking.
This report marks a critical correction to years of false and misleading information about e-cigarettes, which has had dire consequences in terms of public opinion.
In 2012, half of Americans correctly believed e-cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes. By 2014, that number had fallen to 43 percent. A 2016 Gallup poll found half of Americans believed e-cigarettes are harmful to public health and 60 percent said they should be regulated as heavily as tobacco cigarettes.
These misperceptions about the risks of e-cigarettes can have real-world consequences for public health. If smokers believe, incorrectly, there is no point in switching from smoking to vaping because both are equally dangerous, then that person may have given up the opportunity to quit smoking for good and live a longer, healthier life.
One of the U.K.'s leading charities, Cancer Research U.K., has recognized the potential health gains from giving smokers accurate information about e-cigarettes, launching a campaign to inform smokers why e-cigarettes are safer and encouraging them to try vaping if they'd like to quit.
"The bottom line for the American public is that the main conclusions of this report are consistent with those reached by respected organizations like the Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England," said American Vaping Association President Gregory Conley, speaking to the New York Times.
"The committee's findings also fall in line with FDA Director Scott Gottlieb's nicotine strategy, a key element of which involves adult smokers switching to lower risk products. In the wake of this report, it is more apparent than ever that true leadership is needed in public health to ensure that adult smokers have access to truthful information about the benefits of switching to smoke-free products," Conley added.
The report contains a host of other findings, many of which will be misreported, exaggerated, or misinterpreted. Vaping is one of the most hotly debated subjects in public health and this report will add more fuel to that debate.
But one thing's for certain: No one should ever again be under the illusion that vaping is as dangerous as smoking.
Guy Bentley (@gbentley1) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a consumer freedom research associate at the Reason Foundation and was previously a reporter for the Daily Caller.