E-Cigarettes as Medicines – For and Against
Most of us cannot remember a time when smoking was considered good for you, however at one time it was. Today, everyone knows that smoking is harmful, leading to diseases such as emphysema, heart disease, and cancer. Smoking cessation devices such as nicotine gum and nicotine patches have been rolled out to help addicted smokers give up, often with limited success.
When electronic cigarettes first appeared commercially on the scene, they were hailed as a healthier alternative to smoking – a way for smokers to wean themselves off of their tobacco addiction in a way that mimicked the smoking action they were so accustomed to. The devices produce water vapour rather than smoke, and contain nicotine but none of the myriad harmful toxins of regular cigarettes.
Regulatory bodies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the United Kingdom have become concerned in recent years that e-cigs should be regulated and, ultimately, classed as medicines.
The MHRA’s concerns are as follows:
- There is no evidence that electronic cigarettes are safe or effective.
- The use of electronic cigarettes in public will make smoking seem far too ‘normal’.
The European Parliament Environmental and Health Committee recently voted in favour of regulating electronic cigarettes as medicinal products from 2016.
The FDA will decide in a month’s time whether to regulate or ban e-cigs in light of concerns aired by medical groups.
According to the FDA:
- The devices could promote smoking amongst young children and teens.
- E-cigarettes are not considered in the same category as nicotine patches and nicotine gum.
Both the US and UK have seen their fair share of nanny state policies over the years. Only last year, the UK’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence suggested that car park charges should be raised to encourage people to walk or cycle on short journeys – a way to counter what government advisors have called the national ‘epidemic’ of obesity. It makes one wonder just who we are voting for – government officials who are concerned about pressing issues like the economy and education, or a horde of mini-despots whose sole purpose is to save us from ourselves?
So, should electronic cigarettes be regulated? Yes – up to a point. The devices should be restricted for use when it comes to pregnant women and children, and, of course, there needs to be assurances as to their quality and safety.
Are Electronic Cigarettes Safe?
One of the biggest issues with the nay-sayers is that the devices contain nicotine and could lead the unwary (e.g. children) to a life of smoking. One could argue that egg-plants also contain nicotine – should they be classed as medicines?
A common misconception about e-cigs is that they were created to help a smoker quit. The idea behind the devices is that a smoker can switch and have a nicotine fix without ingesting harmful chemicals. E-cigs generally contain nicotine, but don’t have any of the harsh toxins that regular cigarettes have.
By and large, regular tobacco cigarettes are really just a recreational drug, though countless studies have proven that they do cause harm. Electronic cigarettes contain none of the harmful chemicals that cause medical problems, and have been taken up by millions of smokers in the US, UK, and around the world, as an alternative to smoking. Ask any committed ‘vaper’ if their health has improved and they will invariably say ‘yes’.
The classification of e-cigs as medicines will become a reality. What will be the impact?
Professor Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary’s University of London, says “Compared with hypothetical risks that seem unlikely in view of current knowledge about e-cigarettes, we know that the product e-cigarettes are replacing is seriously dangerous. If any new risks emerge, then appropriately tighter regulation can be implemented.”
Professor Hajek argues that placing e-cigarettes under the same regulation as medical devices now is likely to lead to increased costs and less product innovation, which could ultimately lead to a ‘winning situation for the tobacco industry’.
He asserts that undue regulation of e-cigarettes would protect the market monopoly of cigarettes and have the potential consequences of disease in and death of millions of smokers who suddenly found that obtaining e-cigarettes had become too complicated.
While it is true that we don’t know the long-term effects of the use of electronic cigarettes, the fact remains that we do know the effects of tobacco cigarettes. When measured against each other, the negative aspects of tobacco smoking far outweigh the so-called harm of electronic smoking devices.
This article is submitted by Mark from Vapourlites.com, following the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency decision to classify electronic cigarettes in the UK. Feeling s are mixed and he summarizes the range of attitudes towards electronic cigarettes in the UK with a touch of his own.