Dr Ranti Fayokun, a representative from the World Health Organization (WHO) and a scientist in the National Capacity-Tobacco Control Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases, has admitted that e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes. Fayokun's acknowledgement came in response to a question from a Filipino congressman during a congressional hearing on vaping regulation in the Philippines last December.
A Surprising Statement
At the time, Fayokun’s comment came as a surprise because of the WHO’s cautious stance on e-cigarettes. To date, the WHO has not made an official statement regarding their stance on switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes despite mounting scientific evidence that e-cigs are less harmful than regular cigarettes.
One of the most prominent examples of scientific evidence comes from Public Health England (PHE) which, in a study, concluded that e-cigarettes are as much as 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes. PHE has since encouraged smokers who could not quit smoking through more “traditional” means like nicotine patches and gums to switch to the likely less harmful electronic alternative.
Another prominent example comes from the National Academies from Science, Engineering and Medicine which in 2018 released a report in which it acknowledged “completely switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes will reduce exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens found in cigarettes”.
Speaking in the context of regulation, another WHO official commented that a ban on electronic cigarettes would create a sort-of black market that would be dangerous to public health. “If you ban them, there will simply be a black market. When the United States banned alcohol in the 1900s, that did not work out,” said Dr Andrew da Roza, an addiction psychotherapist and lawyer. “We need to regulate them, not ban them,” he added.
Cigarettes are extraordinarily addictive; a point that virtually all smokers can attest to. They have a very powerful impact on the brain. “If you are feeling depressed, smoking will lift your depression. If you are feeling anxious, smoking will calm you down. If you are feeling sleepy, smoking will pick you up,” da Roza said.
A huge part of cigarettes that makes them addictive is nicotine, a substance to which our bodies are genetically geared to be tolerant. Once nicotine enters your body, it is very easy to get “hooked” on it and this is how people become addicted to smoking and find it difficult to stop despite all the harm they cause.
One common way people attempt to quit is through the use of nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) which deliver nicotine to the body in what is believed to be a safer way. A classic example is the nicotine patch and while they can work for some people, they are not as effective as e-cigarettes in helping people quit smoking. “NRTs vs. e-cigarettes show that e-cigarettes are twice as effective as NRTs,” admits da Roza. This is because e-cigarettes mimic the feeling and sensations of smoking in the mouth. They are also a good substitute because there is a social element attached to e-cigarettes, which is something that other NRTs do not have this. Wrapping up, da Roza added e-cigarettes “should be more accessible to smokers than cigarettes at a price point equal to or less than cigarettes.”
Always Consult a Doctor
We always recommend that you consult with your own doctor or physician before you make a major lifestyle change, including taking up the use of e-cigarettes. This is because your own physician is best placed to provide you with tailored health advice that accounts for your own health situation.
Although we are very supportive of vaping and believe that it is an unbeatable cessation tool, we are not public health experts---we simply pass on the latest information to our readers so that they can make their own informed decisions.
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