Should Electronic Cigarettes be banned in public places?
This week, the World Health Organisation has published a report calling for tighter controls on electronic cigarettes but it seems these views are based on the same old fears and outdated views previously shared by other sources. In the report they state they believe electronic cigarettes could be more toxic than people currently believe, and they recommend that vaping be banned in public places bringing it in line with the current regulations for tobacco cigarettes. This view is disputed by many experts though who believe these views are an overreaction that could cost lives. The WHO report states that although electronic cigarettes claim to be a healthier alternative, they expose smokers and non-smokers alike to dangerous chemicals. Currently electronic cigarettes are unregulated and there have been no long term studies into their effects which questions the foundations of these statements. The many short-term, independent studies conducted seem to argue against their claims showing them to be a much healthier alternative to smoking tobacco, having no negative affects on the heart (one of the major organs affected by tobacco smoking) and generally being all round kinder to the body. By banning electronic cigarettes in public places, it is feared that many people will quit using them and return to tobacco cigarettes which could see an increase in smoking related deaths. It is well documented that since the smoking ban, the number of smokers has dropped and the number of people looking for smoking alternatives or smoking cessation devices has increased. In fact, the evidence that electronic cigarettes are an effective tobacco harm reduction device is very evident in America where there has been a massive decrease in tobacco smoking and massive serge in electronic cigarette use, so much so that many American electronic cigarette companies are now owned by the Big Tobacco companies as they attempt to regain their share of the market. The great thing about electronic cigarettes not being included in the ban is that vapers are able to get their nicotine fix at pretty much any time of the day and in any location. The availability of nicotine reduces the need for smoking tobacco as often, if at all, meaning that, at the very least, smokers will reduce the amount of harmful and cancer-causing chemicals they inhale on a daily basis. Hazel Cheeseman, of the charity Action on Smoking and Health, said there was no evidence of any harm to bystanders and warned regulation needed to be proportionate. She says "Smoking kills 100,000 people in the UK alone. Smokers who switch to using electronic cigarettes in whole or in part are likely to substantially reduce their health risks. Although we cannot be sure that electronic cigarettes are completely safe, as the WHO acknowledges, they are considerably less harmful than smoking tobacco and research suggests that they are already helping smokers to quit." Another argument against electronic cigarettes posed by the WHO is that they act to renormalise smoking and act as a gateway to smoking in children. Again this has been shown to be incorrect. In a study of 1,300 college students with an average age of 19 conducted by the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Centre, only 43 had tried an electronic cigarette as their first nicotine product. Of these 43 students, only 1 had started using nicotine products and the other 42 reported they were not currently using any nicotine or tobacco. Again, the WHO says fruit, candy or alcoholic-drink style flavours should be prohibited because it is believed they are targeted at children however a survey of vapers conducted by the E-Cigarette Forum shows that fruit, candy and alcoholic-drink flavours were the main choice of nearly 40% of the 10,000 participants and tobacco accounted for just 22%. In fact, 2/3 non-smokers who participated in the survey stated that non-tobacco flavoured electronic cigarettes played an important part in them quitting smoking. So should electronic cigarettes be banned in public places? For now, the majority of people don't believe they should. Unnecessary restrictions shouldn't be imposed on electronic cigarettes until more facts are known about their effects. The government has made it clear that there are currently no plans to introduce restrictions on vaping in public, however that are introducing new laws to restrict the sale of electronic cigarettes to under 18's, a move welcomed by most companies within the vaping community.