American basketball legend Julius Erving once said: “One of the most predictable things in life is there will be change. You are better off if you can have a say in that change. But you are ignorant or naïve if you don’t think there will be change, whether you want it or not.”
As a race, we’re eternally suspicious of change, of things done differently. Especially change we don’t fully understand.
Ignorance breeds fear and becomes dangerous when based on assumption or misinformation.
Those in the vaping community who took the time to read the World Health Organisation’s report on e-cigarettes this week, will be all too aware of how fear and misinformation can breed contempt for, and suspicion of, new ideas, technologies and solutions.
Today those millions of vapers who thank their lucky stars for discovering that e-cigs gave them a reliable escape from the hell of cigarettes, will be shaking their heads in disbelief at the horrific scaremongering that has accompanied the WHO statement.
Author Arthur Miller famously illustrated just how poisonous and infectious mass delirium can become when it goes unchecked by a dose of factual perspective. His play, The Crucible, may have chosen the historic Salem witch-hunts in New England to highlight this very human idiosyncrasy but, were he writing it today, he could just as easily used the Great Vaping Scandal to make his point.
So, let’s get to the nitty gritty. The detail. The facts.
Let’s read beyond the frankly ridiculous doomsday-style tabloid headlines and expose exactly what the WHO statement actually says.
It says that electronic cigarettes should face greater restrictions on their use, sale and promotion.
Nothing new really.
The WHO also states that, although less harmful than real cigarettes, the nicotine vapour exhaled carries a passive smoking risk that means e-cigs should be banned indoors.
They claim there is only “limited” evidence that e-cigs help smokers quit, which “does not allow conclusions to be reached”, calling for a ban on marketing them as “smoking cessation aids” without more evidence.
We’re absolutely certain that the huge majority of the millions of people who have quit smoking after taking up vaping, and seeing their health improve, would fundamentally disagree that e-cigs don’t help smokers quit.
Now, for some perspective. A little balance.
The Oxford Journals report into Secondhand Exposure to Vapours From Electronic Cigarettes sees things very differently to the WHO.
Its panel of esteemed doctors, physicians and acknowledged medical experts conducted its own independent study. And its conclusion?
“The study showed that e-cigarettes are a source of secondhand exposure to nicotine but not to combustion toxicants. The average concentration of nicotine resulting from smoking tobacco cigarettes was 10 times higher than from e-cigarettes.”
The report concluded: “Using an e-cigarette in indoor environments may involuntarily expose nonusers to nicotine but not to toxic tobacco-specific combustion products.”
So, no exposure to that toxic mix of chemicals that really makes second-hand smoke dangerous to third parties.
Ash – the Action on Smoking & Health advisory group – agrees.
Hazel Cheeseman, Ash director of policy and research, says there is “no evidence of any harm to bystanders from use of these devices”.
She added: “Smoking kills 100,000 people in the UK alone. Smokers who switch to using electronic cigarettes in whole or in part are likely to substantially reduce their health risks.
“Although we cannot be sure that electronic cigarettes are completely safe, as the WHO acknowledges, they are considerably less harmful than smoking tobacco and research suggests that they are already helping smokers to quit.”
Let’s go back to the beginning. Change.
We may fear it but we can’t halt progress. And, however you want to dress up the detail there’s one fact amongst all this debate and political rhetoric that remains uncontested by all sides – e-cigs are the most significant opportunity to change the lifestyle and health of those hooked on cigarettes for decades.
As legendary singer songwriter Sam Cooke once said, “A Change is Gonna Come…”