There are now various detailed and finely nuanced position statements on e-cigarettes – including a few from ASH Scotland. As an evidence-based organisation we feel it is important to collate and review what we know, but necessarily these considerations have so many ifs, buts and maybes that we risk leaving people none the wiser.
At worst the detailed media worrying over potential harm caused by e-cigarettes, while the huge harm caused by tobacco is so certain and familiar as to be mundane, leaves large numbers of people unclear as to the large risk gap between electronic cigarettes and the tobacco variety.
Yet there are some key points which we hope most commentators can agree on. So, in the interests of promoting greater public understanding, ASH Scotland hereby presents our most brief and straightforward commentary on electronic cigarettes to date, leaving the fine details, evidence interpretations and policy nuances for another day.
- Smoking greatly increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and dementia so it is no surprise that most smokers say that they want to quit. We encourage anyone who smokes to try the options available to help them to stop, and many ex-smokers say they have found that electronic cigarettes helped them to quit tobacco.
- While not completely safe, using an e-cigarette is much less harmful than smoking. All the information we have suggests that someone moving completely from tobacco cigarettes to electronic cigarettes will greatly reduce the health risks, but to get these benefits they need to stop using tobacco altogether.
- Electronic cigarettes need to be regulated to improve quality and reliability. There should also be restrictions to prevent promotion to non-smokers, particularly children. But we should maintain the strongest regulation on tobacco, which is the most harmful product.
On this basis our hope for 2016 is that electronic cigarettes help to reduce the number of people in Scotland using tobacco.
Can we all agree on that?