Will Vaping Soon Be Allowed in Offices?
It’s been a long time since anyone was allowed to smoke at work or on public transport. But, as more evidence emerges that e-cigarettes pose little risk to human health — and can help smokers to quit for good — that may be changing.
No one is suggesting that smokers be allowed to light up in the office or on buses and trains, but in the UK, a group of parliamentarians has issued a report recommending that the government lift restrictions on vaping so that people can use e-cigarettes just about anywhere they please — for the good of public health and to end a kind of unwarranted demonisation of vaping.
Smoking, after all, remains a global public health crisis that is responsible for the loss of around seven million lives around the world each year — close to one million of whom developed fatal diseases due to secondhand smoke alone. It’s the leading cause of preventable death in almost every country, and governments are doing all they can to try and help people to stop smoking and become healthier as a result. E-cigarettes are now a leading smoking-cessation method, because smokers can still get the nicotine they crave, but avoid the thousands of toxic and cancer-causing chemicals found in burning tobacco.
‘No Rationale’ for Vaping Restrictions
The move to normalise the use of e-cigarettes in public comes from the UK parliament’s Science and Technology Committee, which published a report in August that said the government was “missing an opportunity with e-cigarettes” and that they “should not be treated in the same way as conventional cigarettes”.
“Smoking remains a national health crisis and the government should be considering innovative ways of reducing the smoking rate,” said the committee’s chairman, Norman Lamb. “E-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, but current policy and regulations do not sufficiently reflect this and businesses, transport providers and public places should stop viewing conventional and e-cigarettes as one and the same. There is no public health rationale for doing so,” he said.
The committee is urging the government to lift an advertising ban on e-cigarettes, which are easily available from a good vape shop online, so they can be promoted as a less harmful option to smoking. It also wants lower taxes on e-cigarettes so that smokers would be more inclined to give up their expensive habit and switch to vaping. And along with allowing vaping in public places, the committee is calling for an end to limits on the strengths of nicotine in e-liquid and official approval for vaping as a stop-smoking therapy.
Backing Up the Recommendations
The parliamentary committee drew much of its facts for its vaping recommendations from new research by leading medical and scientific institutions in the UK. One, by Public Health England and issued earlier this year, declared that “vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits”. It also said that “e-cigarettes could be contributing to at least 20,000 successful new quits per year and possibly many more” — a lofty goal that the government is certainly in favour of.
Many smokers typically start with vape kits as they make the transition away from cigarettes. They will usually contain an e-cigarette that’s easy to use and doesn’t take much knowledge to get going. And as e-liquids and the flavours they contain have different nicotine strengths, it’s important to get the level right for each smoker — not enough and they risk being dissatisfied with the experience and relapsing to smoking. Eventually, those who continue with vaping to stay off cigarettes can gradually reduce the amount of nicotine in their e-liquid refills until they’re just vaping for the many flavours and nothing else.
The committee also found that vaping did not act as a pathway to smoking, as some people have feared. “Concerns that e-cigarettes could be a gateway to conventional smoking, including for young non-smokers, have not materialised,” said Lamb. “If used correctly, e-cigarettes could be a key weapon in the [National Health Service’s] stop-smoking arsenal.”