Since e-cigarettes have only been around since the early noughties, researchers do not know an awful lot about their long-term consequences to our health. As time goes by, who knows what the evidence will reveal? Take traditional cigarettes – doctors originally prescribed smoking before the extremely harmful health effects began to show up in research.
Therefore, it’s important to stay updated with the latest research, especially when making crucial health decisions like whether to use e-cigarettes as a method of smoking cessation (or otherwise).
So far, research suggests e-cigarettes are less risky than traditional cigarettes because they do not contain tobacco. As most of us know, tobacco cigarettes carry high risks of lung cancer, heart disease and a multitude of other adverse health effects.
The higher risk implicated by tobacco smoke means doctors and oncologists tend to agree that e-cigarettes are a far safer method of nicotine delivery than cigarette smoking. Indeed, a report published by Public Health England suggests vaping may be 95% safer than smoking. E-cigarettes have therefore been highly praised for helping many individuals quit smoking tobacco.
However, it is important to be aware of the controversies here. For instance, in the United States, both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issue explicit health warnings about the use of e-cigarettes, especially recreationally. They strongly recommend e-cigarettes should be avoided by those who are not currently trying to quit tobacco smoking. Conversely, in Europe, there are a lack of public health messages of this nature – regulations have been more focused in the marketing sector, with emphasis placed on thorough labelling of products so that users are aware of their chemical content.
The differences between messages about e-cigarettes in these different parts of the world could reflect the greater push for tobacco-free nations in Europe. The potential health risks of using e-cigarettes as a means to achieve this are therefore reported differently.
Tobacco-control researchers have specific intentions to expose the dangers of tobacco and remove tobacco-related risk for patients. This is a noble agenda, but an agenda nonetheless: the potential for bias cannot be ignored and the other sides of the argument for the health dangers of e-cigarettes should be considered.