Confidence in a healthier alternative

By | Science & Technology
The e-cigarette. Credit@aussie-dragon.

Electronic cigarettes (e- cigarettes) are aiming to help a large number of individuals around the world improve their health by changing their smoking habits. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently released a report on e- cigarettes, calling for regulations to be put in place. These are to ensure smokers, who may benefit from the device, may attain e-cigarettes. Many tobacco experts believe that this is important. However it is equally important to ensure that the e – cigarette’s health benefits, for the smoking population, are maximised. It is paramount that both safety and health benefits are well balanced in order to reach the most effective and beneficial conclusions.

E- cigarettes are battery-powered devices that simulate smoking. The battery heats the system and vaporises a liquid solution containing a mixture of substances including; nicotine, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and flavourings. It is designed to provide smokers with a safer, healthier alternative to smoking, with the aim of gradually altering the amount of nicotine in the device. Data suggests that the use of e- cigarettes has increased over the past few years. For example, a UK study from heath organisation ASH estimated that in 2012 700,000 people used the device. In 2014 this figure reached 2.1 million. Clearly the e – cigarette is a popular alternative to conventional cigarettes and is gaining greater recognition.

The WHO’s report on e – cigarettes was released last month, calling for regulation of the device so that smokers, who may benefit from the device, are able to attain e-cigarettes. This includes regulating where they are used in public, who they are sold to and how they are advertised. The WHO believes that greater evidence is required before companies may advertise e- cigarettes for their health benefits. Their regulations were designed to ensure that only smokers who want to change their smoking habits purchase the device.

E- cigarettes aim to prolong a large number of lives according to Robert West from the University College London. West found that e- cigarettes provide smokers with a more effective means of changing their habit, rather than other replacement methods such as patches or chewing gum. His group calculated that e-cigarettes have the potential to extend an estimated 54,000 lives, if all 9 million smokers in the UK switched to e-cigarettes. This may allow them longer, healthier lives. West believes that the WHO’s report should consider this valuable data when making regulation decisions. West and other experts say evidence in a UK survey shows that around 0.1 – 1% of non-smokers use e – cigarettes. West believes this figure demonstrates that it is largely smokers who purchase and use the device. He believes the WHO should also consider this evidence, in order to efficiently balance the health benefits of the device and its safety around non-smokers.

Education is vital to ensure the correct individuals gain access to the E – cigarette, and that younger individuals are kept safe. Strategic goals aim to provide a more efficient method for using the device. In order to better educate the public, it is important to gather further data on the effects of e – cigarettes on a greater range of individuals. This data may assess both the health benefits for smokers and the effects of passive smoking. Consequently, by studying the current information and building on the scientific knowledge already gained; informed regulations may correctly balance safety with the benefits of e – cigarettes.

How might e – cigarettes most effectively be used in society with researcher’s current understanding of them?

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