Has e-cigarette advice been misleading?

Experts claim that the benefits outweigh the risks

Researchers from the University College London team have disagreed with World Health Organisation (WHO) advice about the use of e-cigarettes, claiming current recommendations are alarmist when the devices could save lives.

The health experts explained that for every million smokers who switch to e-cigarettes, more than 6,000 lives a year could be saved. If all nine million UK smokers used them that would equate to 54,000 lives saved out of the current 60,000 premature deaths. They also dismissed WHO claims that the vapourisers would encourage non-smokers to take up the habit, revealing that the number of non-smokers who use e-cigarettes amounts to less than 1% of the population in England.

The WHO have called for e-cigarette use to be banned in public places and workplaces, citing that the devices could raise the levels of some toxins and nicotine in the air, although Prof Robert West adds that although some toxins were present from e-cigarettes, the concentrations were much lower than the real things. “In fact, concentrations are almost all well below a twentieth of cigarettes,” he told BBC News.

Life-saving

Researchers at the National Addiction Centre based at King’s College London and the Tobacco Dependence Unit at Queen Mary University also echo Prof West’s views that some of the assumptions made by the WHO have been “misleading.” 

Lead researcher Prof Peter Hajek said “I think any responsible regulator proposing restricting regulation has to balance reducing risks with reducing potential benefits. In this case the risks are unlikely, some already proven not to exist, while the benefits are potentially enormous. It really could be a revolutionary intervention in public health if smokers switched from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes. So killing benefits, which are huge, for risks which are small is like asking people to stop using mobile phones and tablets, or restrict their use and further development, because of a one in 10 million chance that the battery might overheat in your device.”

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