Multinational experts: electronic cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco

Recently, public health experts from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia pointed out in their new book “Comparative Politics of E-cigarettes and Harm Reduction: History, Evidence, and Policy” that e-cigarettes have a significant effect on harm reduction, but not all countries Like the United Kingdom, e-cigarettes are supported on the basis of scientific evidence. Public health agencies in the United States, Australia and other countries even discredit e-cigarettes for special purposes and mislead the public.

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《E-Cigarettes and the Comparative Politics》 of Harm Reduction: History, Evidence, and Policy

It has become a scientific consensus in the global public health community that electronic cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes. But governments have remained divided on regulatory issues. For example, the British government will promote e-cigarettes to smokers on a regulatory basis, the United States allows the sale of e-cigarettes, and needs to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for listing, and Australia sells e-cigarettes in pharmacies in the form of prescription drugs.

In the author’s opinion, the key reason for the different regulatory policies in the three countries is the different “serving objects”. The promotion of e-cigarettes in the UK is to serve smokers. The official website of the World Health Organization describes smoking cessation as “Quitting tobacco”, that is, quitting tobacco, because nicotine does not cause cancer. The real harm of cigarettes comes from more than 4,000 chemical substances and 69 carcinogens produced by tobacco combustion. Electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco The burning process can reduce the harm of cigarettes by 95%, and can significantly improve the success rate of smokers in quitting smoking.

“The British government’s tobacco control policy really serves adult smokers,” wrote Virginia Berridge, the first author of the book and a well-known British public health expert. In contrast, the tobacco control policies of the United States and Australia are more focused on serving minors. In order to reduce the attractiveness of e-cigarettes to minors, relevant departments continue to exaggerate the harm of e-cigarettes, causing many smokers to have a negative impression of e-cigarettes and miss opportunities for harm reduction.

In fact, there is no conflict between protecting minors and helping smokers. Cliff Douglas, former vice president of tobacco control at the American Cancer Society, once pointed out in a public speech that protecting young people and supporting adult smokers to quit smoking can and must be achieved at the same time. Cheryl Healthon, a professor at the New York University School of Global Public Health, also emphasized in a speech at the same time that smokers have the right to choose a harm reduction plan that suits them.

But the government’s position is difficult to change. The book mentions that in the UK, based on the standpoint of serving smokers, public health agencies will actively promote scientific evidence about e-cigarettes. Public health agencies in the United States and Australia have organized e-cigarette “terrorist campaigns.” Even if a few public health experts stand up to support e-cigarettes, they will be splashed with dirty water and regarded as receiving money from e-cigarette companies.

In addition, the formulation of tobacco control policies is also related to various factors such as the country’s history, politics, and industry interests. “Tobacco companies once launched low-tar cigarettes, and later research confirmed that these products have almost no harm reduction effect. This has left many countries with lingering fears about harm reduction strategies.” The author emphasizes that e-cigarettes are different from low-tar cigarettes, and their harm reduction effects It has been confirmed by numerous studies.

In April 2023, the British government launched the world’s first “change to e-cigarettes before quitting smoking” plan to increase the success rate of smoking cessation by distributing free e-cigarettes to 1 million British smokers. The author pointed out in the book that Britain is opening up a new path of tobacco control that is more rational than other countries, which will inspire the United States, Australia and other countries to put aside outdated concepts and re-examine e-cigarettes.

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