As the British psychiatrist Michael Russell put it, “people smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar.” Just ten years ago, the idea of anybody getting nicotine vapour from an electronic device rather than a smouldering bonfire between their lips would have sounded like something from science fiction; nobody could ever have anticipated the level of success and popularity that vaping has had over the last few years. In such a short space of time, thousands of lives have been changed as smokers have switched from cigarettes to e-cigs. Because vaping is driving smoking out at such an extraordinary rate, nowadays anyone smoking a lit tobacco cigarette seems almost quaint and old-fashioned.
Experts who have assessed vapour produced by electronic cigarettes have found that it contains only a tiny fraction of the number of chemicals in tobacco smoke and most of those are harmless. The best scientific estimate so far produced by both Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians in the UK puts the risks of vaping at 95% less than smoking; this estimate was produced by a highly esteemed independent team of doctors, pharmacologists and others, acknowledging for the first time what us vapers knew all along- that electronic cigarettes are a game changing technology, with potentially huge implications for consumers and public health.
Smoking is still the biggest preventable cause of cancer worldwide. Unlike any other consumer product, tobacco kills up to two thirds of long-term users and harms many others. Given time and further innovation, vaping has the potential to continue dramatically reducing both the number of people who smoke and the number of cigarettes smoked by those who choose not to quit completely. Every year around 7 million deaths around the world are linked to tobacco – more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Who knows- maybe vaping will eventually achieve the aim of World No Tobacco Day and make tobacco obsolete altogether, saving many of the estimated one billion lives that will be prematurely lost through tobacco smoking over the coming century?