Wacky British Idea: Why Not Tell the Truth About E-Cigarettes?
English public health officials, unlike ours, recognize the harm-reducing potential of vaping.
A recent report from Public Health England endorses vaping as a harm-reducing alternative to smoking. In my latest Forbes column, I contrast that position with the irrational fear and loathing of e-cigarettes common among American public health officials:
Last week Public Health England (PHE), a government agency, published a detailed report on electronic cigarettes that describes them as far less dangerous than the conventional kind and recommends them as a harm-reducing alternative. "Encouraging smokers who cannot or do not want to stop smoking to switch to EC [electronic cigarettes] could help reduce smoking-related disease, death and health inequalities," the report says. "Smokers who have tried other methods of quitting without success could be encouraged to try EC to stop smoking, and stop smoking services should support smokers using EC to quit by offering them behavioural support."
PHE's position should not be controversial. It is indisputable that vaping, which does not involve tobacco or combustion, is much safer than smoking, and it logically follows that smokers can dramatically reduce the health risks they face by switching. Yet public health agencies and anti-smoking organizations in the United States, unlike their counterparts in the U.K., are strangely reluctant to acknowledge these points, implausibly portraying e-cigarettes as a threat rather than an opportunity. The British example points the way to a calmer, more rational approach that is consistent with the public health goal of reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with smoking.