The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health made a statement that called for the outright ban of disposable e-cigarettes in the next chapter of the moral panic that no vape supplier has been able to ignore.
The term “moral panic” is an exceptionally strong one, but it is difficult to find a term that fits better for the current media landscape surrounding e-cigarettes, particularly at a point where their importance in creating a smoke-free Britain is more established than ever.
It is regrettable for the RCPCH, a professional body that has made incredible progress in training, education, research and advocacy for child health, to publish a call to ban disposable vapes entirely, and even more regrettable that such a press release uses false claims to do so.
Whilst responsible vape sellers and stockists will be in agreement that people who did not smoke previously should not start vaping, a call for a ban has the potential to undermine decades of smoking cessation work based on claims that may not be correct.
Here are some of the major examples, and the truth behind them.
More Addictive Than Cigarettes?
The press release starts on a less-than-stable footing by making the argument without any evidence that e-cigarette is “as addictive, if not more so” than traditional tobacco cigarettes.
Whilst both cigarettes and vapes contain nicotine, the mechanism for absorption is different because e-liquid vapour and tobacco smoke are heated to different temperatures and are therefore delivered at different rates.
An article published by the NHS claims that the majority of people who use nicotine replacement therapy (of which vaping is one) do not become dependent.
Decades To Understand The Dangers?
One argument used both in the release and in later comments by Vice President for Policy Dr Mike McKean is that it took over six decades for the dangers of smoking to be fully understood, which is at best disingenuous and at worst an outright lie.
Starting from automatic cigarette manufacturing which began the smoking epidemic in earnest in the 1880s and not going as far back as King James I, there were early prohibition movements before the 20th century and the first doctor to claim that tobacco is connected to lung cancer did so in 1912.
Whilst you can certainly make arguments that for various political, commercial and personal reasons (many doctors of the time were also dependent smokers), it is an irresponsible falsehood to claim that it took that long to understand the dangers.
What evidence that has been established since the initial production of e-cigarettes in 2004 suggests that they are far safer than smoking cigarettes, and as vaping products are manufactured for current or former smokers, even if they are not necessarily free of risk.
A Safer Alternative
What is clear is that vaping is an effective way to stop smoking as has been established and published repeatedly over the past decade.
The broad support of vaping translated into lower smoking rates, and disposable vapes are an important entry point for many former smokers due to their ease of use and affordability.
Any policy shift should consider the health of adult former smokers for which these products do not cause harm but significantly reduce it by keeping them away from cigarettes.