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As the new year makes its debut, the call to make vaping a socially acceptable smoking cessation form is renewed. One of the loudest voices in the chorus is that of Professor Linda Bauld, who has written previously on how vaping can help the millions of smokers around the world who try to quit every year as part of their New Year’s resolutions.
Professor Linda Bauld is currently the Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling, and she is leading the call. As the Deputy Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, it is her job to keep a close eye on vaping studies and reports. She is also one of the most knowledgeable scientists on the issue of vaping and smoking.
In Bauld’s op-ed, which was published on The Guardian earlier this week, she talks at length about the misinformation campaign that is currently attacking the vaping community. Her remarks begin with the unbelievable news that more people than last year now believe vaping is as dangerous as smoking.
As most readers will know, there are dozens of studies done in both the UK and the US that have cleared up the misconception that vaping is as dangerous as smoking. In fact, the Royal College of Physicians released a report a few months ago, which you can read here, that reviewed studies that were done on vaping and came to the conclusion that: “the hazard to health arising from long term vapour inhalation from e-cigarettes is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco.”
Since then, other UK organizations, such as the Royal College of General Practitioners, have come forward to state their support of vaping as a smoking cessation method. This was made clear in a consensus statement, which was endorsed by many credible public health bodies in the country, that stated that vaping ought to be used as the primary smoking cessation method for smokers in the UK.
However, few countries are following in the UK’s footsteps.
This may have something to do with various scare tactics and stories that have circulated in the past year. Bauld states that although other studies have found dangerous side effects from vaping, they are often mired in poor science and biased methods of execution. Many of these studies also refuse to compare vaping to smoking, which is generally used by former smokers as a smoking cessation method.
Two of these reports, one done by the World Health Organisation and the other by the Office of the US Surgeon General, were both critiqued by scientists in their respective countries. These reports, which you can view here and here, repeatedly refused to compare smoking and vaping and also used some severely criticized studies as part of the organizations’ supporting evidence.
Both of the above reports supported the banning or severe restriction of vaping as part of an overall plan to regulate the industry. While the vaping community is committed to strict regulation of vaping, such as installing a minimum age requirement for the sale and use of vape products, the idea of an outright ban is causing a lot of ire in the science community, particularly from Bauld herself.
Bauld concludes her op-ed by stating that: “I believe that e-cigarettes have huge potential to save lives by providing an alternative to smoking. Yet this can only be realised if we address negative harm perceptions and communicate honestly with the public.”
To many in the vaping community, that means having an open and honest line of communication about the science of vaping, how nicotine is not a tobacco product and should therefore not be categorized as such, and new technology that might make vaping safer in the future.
For now, the vape community must continue to speak out about vaping with the certainty that it can, and should, be used as a smoking cessation method for all smokers, no matter what time of the year they decide to quit.