Vaping is perhaps more popular in the UK than anywhere else at the moment, with over 3 million active vapers. When you consider the research published by Public Health England which claims vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking, it's little surprise that vaping is skyrocketing in Britain. NHS Scotland even went as far as to officially recommend e-cigarettes to those trying to quit smoking tobacco laced cigarettes. So why this sudden move to launch a new inquiry into the safety of vaping? Is it necessary and will it make a difference?
Concern over vaping ban in New York
Last week, New York became the 10th state in the US to ban vaping in indoor public places like restaurants, bars and cafes. Whether you agree with the ban or not, it did reignite the public debate around the health risks of vaping and whether or not people should be allowed to do it - respectfully - where they please. It's probably no coincidence that MP's in the UK have now ordered an inquiry to re-assess the government's stance on vaping. While the vast majority of research claims that vaping is far less harmful than cigarettes, and vaping itself is an excellent vehicle for quitting tobacco altogether, it seems strange that the UK would suddenly choose to get tough on vapers.
Record breaking numbers are quitting tobacco
Smoking cigarettes costs the NHS almost £2bn ever year, and 80% of the tax the government takes on cigarette sales apprently goes toward dealing with this cost. We all know the devastating damage cigarettes can cause, but thankfully people are quitting in record numbers thanks to the rise of vaping. The Office of National Statistics in the UK reported that only 7.6 million smokers were left in the UK - a decline of 4% since 2010, just as vaping was starting to take off. Vaping is clearly serving a valuable purpose, so why punish those who choose it as an alternative to smoking?
The tax question
One theory revolves around tax. While the government claims that 80% of the tax it gains from cigarette sales goes directly into funding the NHS, what if this isn't the case? We should remember that e-cigarettes are subject to the same kind of taxes as traditional cigarettes. Simply put - there's less money in e-cigs for the government, and there may even be a financial incentive for them to stop the number of smokers in country from decreasing any further. The Royal College of Physicians issued a report last year stating that public health policy should encourage tobacco users to switch to a substitute nicotine product, so it seems counter-intuitive to u-turn and go the other way.
Naturally, there are differing views on vaping. Some people can see the value in it as a tool for getting off tobacco (and eventually off nicotine altogether), while others see it as a dangerous trigger point that should be discouraged. Vaping is still in its youth and there isn't a wealth of research out there, but what we do have largely supports vaping as an almost harmless alternative to something which can cause cancer, disease and death. Aside from the nicotine (which can be carefully controlled and phased out) in an e-cigarette, there's very little to cause harm. All ingredients are FDA approved and do no more harm than your morning cup of coffee or soda of choice.
What do you think of the UK's recent move to open an inquiry into vaping? Do you think other US states will soon join New York in banning it? What might this mean for us vapers? Leave your comments below - we'd love to hear from you!