Vapes are popping up everywhere — at parties, restaurants, and even in the workplace.
Health organizations in some countries believe that vaping is better for the body, but conflicting research on the side effects of e-cigarettes and their ability to help long-time smokers kick the habit has caused the global medical community to develop differing views.
Nations are moving to create policies that support varying stances on these popular puffing products.
A Varied International Verdict On Vaping
Public Health of England (PHE) is the first official government organization to recognize the safety of vaping as an alternative to smoking cigarettes. PHE estimates that e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than traditional cigarettes.
In the U.S., the FDA has not made any sweeping statements of e-cigarette approval. America’s regulatory body has said that e-cigarettes “have not been fully studied, so consumers currently don’t know the potential risks of e-cigarettes when used as intended, how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use, or whether there are any benefits associated with using these products.
Additionally, it is not known whether e-cigarettes may lead young people to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death.”
But in the U.K., almost all of the 2.6 million e-cigarette users are former smokers in the process of quitting or avoiding relapse. The PHE review wants to create better reputation for vaping products, which contain nicotine but none of the cancer-causing chemicals like tar and arsenic. PHE Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies would like to see e-cigarettes become licensed smoking cessation aids, like nicotine patches and gum.
“This would provide assurance on the safety, quality and efficacy to consumers who want to use these products as quitting aids, especially in relation to the flavourings used, which is where we know least about any inhalation risks,” Davies said.
In May 2015, studies presented to the American Thoracic Society International Conference show that vapes aren’t successful solutions to quit smoking long-term, according to American Academy of Family Physicians.
The FDA would like to extend its authority over e-cigarettes, which meets the definition of a tobacco product under the Tobacco Products Deemed To Be Subject to the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (Deeming).
“We are concerned about the potential for addiction and abuse of these products. We don’t want the public to perceive them as a safer alternative to cigarettes,” said Rita Chapelle, an FDA spokeswoman.
A Costly Process vs. A Cautious Medical Community
E-cigarettes are relatively new, and there is a lack of long-term research on the negative side effects. For this reason, U.K. health professionals want to legalize the products and include a warning that vapes should only be used as stop-smoking aids.
PHE would like to license the product, but faces a lengthy and costly process. Two years ago the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency began the licensing process, but cited limitations due to the million-dollar cost.
Across the pond, Canada has banned e-cigarette sale. In addition, multiple studies in The Journal of The American Medical Association question the safety of e-cigarettes. American medical associations asked the FDA to ban the sale of e-cigarettes until they are proven safe. However, the FDA has still not been granted regulatory power due to shifting power politics. Until then, health organization aren’t jumping to conclusions.
According to American Lung Association’s their website, the association is “concerned about the potential health consequences of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), as well as the unproven claims that they can be used to help smokers quit.
Presently there is no government oversight of these products. Absent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation, there is no way for the public health and medical community or consumers to know what chemicals are contained in e-cigarettes (also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems or ENDS) or what the short- and long-term health implications might be.”
The best course of action for smokers is to kick the habit, with or without smoking aids. In the U.S., political parties continue to debate about the safety and regulation of e-cigarettes. But in the U.K., public health representatives think that e-cigarettes could be the helping hand that life-long smokers need to quit.
“E-cigarettes are not completely risk-free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm. Local stop-smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely,” according to Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at PHE.
Regardless of the difference of opinion, the global e-cigarette debate rages on.
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