Just over a decade after the first e-cigarette was introduced, e-cigarettes have become a fast-growing global industry. In 2016, Time magazine even named e-cigarettes as the 25 best inventions of all time.
But in the years that followed, consumers became more and more biased toward e-cigarettes because of industry turmoil and misleading mass media, and the truth about e-cigarettes became further and further removed from them.
Popular prejudice against e-cigarettes is concentrated in several ways: e-cigarettes encourage more non-smokers to smoke; E-cigarettes don’t help you quit smoking; E-cigarettes are more harmful than cigarettes.
The spread of this “prejudice” is exacerbated by the mass media. Different media have different concerns about e-cigarettes. After the rise of e-cigarettes, some media reported various harms of e-cigarettes and even claimed that “e-cigarettes have a carcinogenic rate several times higher than cigarettes”. Others argue that the nicotine in e-cigarettes is addictive and therefore has a “portal effect” : attracting non-smokers who become addicted to nicotine and end up using traditional cigarettes. Under the influence of “false” reports again and again, some countries and regions have even started to ban e-cigarettes altogether.
But these voices often turn out to be unsupported by scientific experiments and data. Steve Forbes, chairman of Forbes Media Group and editor-in-chief of Forbes, said on his latest video show “What’s Ahead” on August 18, 2020 that “the campaign against vaping is based on a lot of misinformation and outright lies.”
The debate over e-cigarettes has never stopped. What is the truth?
For the average consumer, the answer to this question requires a brief understanding of how e-cigarettes are made and how they work. E-cigarettes are usually divided into two main components: electronic vaporizers and liquid containing nicotine, propylene glycol and glycerin. The idea behind e-cigarettes is to vaporize the liquid to form smoke.
In its 2020 report on e-cigarettes, the WORLD Health Organization (WHO) officially defined e-cigarettes as “electronic nicotine delivery systems”, distinguishing them from traditional cigarettes because they do not contain tobacco and tar, and do not carry the harmful substances found in cigarette burning.
According to the WHO report, ranked on the basis of harmful ingredients in products, conventional cigarettes > IQOS class heated non-combustible tobacco products > electronic nicotine delivery systems. At the bottom of the list is the electronic nicotine delivery system known as the vaporized e-cigarette.
In other words, e-cigarettes are far less harmful than cigarettes in terms of composition alone; Second, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, so they do not produce tar, which is the main cause of lung cancer in smokers.
This debunked one of the biggest consumer myths — that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than traditional cigarettes because of their composition and atomization process.
The truth about e-cigarettes
Are e-cigarettes, an emerging alternative to traditional tobacco, an opportunity to improve public health or a hidden threat? What attitude should be taken towards it?
Several facts about e-cigarettes can be gleaned from authoritative health organizations and past media reports.
First, e-cigarettes don’t make more non-smokers smoke.
The majority of current e-cigarette users are former or current smokers, according to the Department of Health. Only 0.8% to 1.3% of young people who have never smoked are e-cigarette users.
Second, e-cigarettes are effective in helping people quit smoking.
What is the success rate of e-cigarettes, one of the main aims of which is to quit smoking? After weighing the pros and cons, is it worth a try?
More than 50,000 smokers in the UK give up smoking each year with the help of e-cigarettes, according to research published in Addiction.
Two behavioural scientists from Oxford University and Queen Mary university of London led a small four-week experiment. Twenty-six smokers who smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day were recruited and divided into four groups: one group was forced to quit, one was given a nicotine patch to help quit, one used e-cigarettes, and a control group continued to smoke traditional cigarettes.
After four weeks, two of the seven in the forced quit group had quit smoking successfully; Of the eight participants in the nicotine patch group, seven quit smoking; The e-cigarette group did just as well as the nicotine patch group.
This means e-cigarettes can be significantly more effective for smokers who want to quit than forcing them to. In November 2018, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also revealed its attitude to the public. It recommends that people who are already addicted switch to e-cigarettes and try to quit.
Third, e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes
The BBC documentary “E-Cigarettes: Wonder or Threat” showed smoke analysis of conventional tobacco and e-cigarettes. The results showed that about 6,000 chemical compounds were produced when traditional cigarettes burned, and about 100 of them were harmful or potentially harmful. Scanning e-cigarette smoke using the same method showed that concentrations of each compound were drastically reduced.
The documentary says that while e-cigarettes are not completely safe, they are about 95 percent safer than traditional cigarettes.
Another experiment in the documentary exposed living cells of the respiratory system to cigarette smoke and e-cigarette smoke. The results showed that traditional cigarettes were devastating, with cells exposed to smoke only surviving 6 percent of the time.
The results of the e-cigarette experiment were surprising: 53 percent of the cells in the petri dish survived.
As a result, the British government, which has taken e-cigarettes seriously, believes that smokers who switch from cigarettes to e-cigarettes have significantly improved their health. E-cigarettes can play an important role in the government’s goal of achieving a smoke-free generation and greatly relieve the financial pressure on health care.
According to public Health England’s 2021 Evidence Update, e-cigarette products were the most commonly used aid for people trying to quit smoking in the UK in 2020, with 50,000 to 70,000 people using e-cigarettes each year.
E-cigarettes need to be treated rationally
For many ordinary consumers, the perception that e-cigarettes are harmful comes from a “survivor bias” in information reception. In the e-cigarette industry, the whole chain should be strictly checked, from material selection compliance at the source to safety testing before delivery.
The influx of untested e-cigarette brands using non-compliant additives into the market has led to confusion and left consumers with the impression that e-cigarettes are harmful. In the words of one practitioner, it is like the “toxic milk powder” phenomenon: “Just because some milk powder is found to be toxic doesn’t mean the whole industry should be misunderstood.”
The UK government’s long-standing support for e-cigarettes is a good example of how to justify them.
E-cigarette shops are being introduced to hospitals in a bid to help more smokers kick the habit.
Britain supports e-cigarettes, encouraging traditional smokers to switch to them. More than a third of the nine million smokers in the UK are e-cigarette users. The UK has established a comprehensive regulatory system for e-cigarettes and has strict control over nicotine content. The UK has been following EU rules on tobacco products since 2016. The regulation limits advertising and sets a strict limit of 20mg/mL of nicotine.
As the first country to explicitly endorse e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool, the UK has not only been committed to the science of e-cigarettes, but has also encouraged smokers to switch to them as a key tool in tobacco control.
In 2019, the STOP report, the global tobacco regulator, named the UK as the best country to act on tobacco control. This year’s report showed that adult smoking rates in England continued to fall in 2020, with the government’s tobacco control measures having a very positive effect.
Clearly, with a clear regulatory approach, we can largely avoid minors using e-cigarettes, low product quality and other chaos. There are also lessons to be learned from the UK’s approach to e-cigarettes: continuing to stigmatize e-cigarettes can actually have very serious consequences. Tobacco is one of the world’s most serious public health problems, and failure to confront e-cigarettes indirectly leads to more deaths from cigarettes and a lost opportunity to improve public health.
For ordinary consumers and “traditional smokers” who want to try e-cigarettes, the job is to avoid prejudice and establish a scientific and systematic understanding of e-cigarettes.