Multinational experts: e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes, stop sending the wrong message

Recently, public health experts from the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia have pointed out in their new book "Comparative Politics of E-Cigarettes and Harm Reduction: History, Evidence and Policy" that e-cigarettes have a significant role to play in reducing harm, but not all countries support e-cigarettes on the basis of scientific evidence as the United Kingdom does, and that public health institutions in the United States, Australia and other countries have even discredited e-cigarettes for particular purposes to mislead the public's judgement.
E-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes has become a scientific consensus in the global public health community. However, governments have always been divided on the issue of regulation. For example, the UK government will promote e-cigarettes to smokers on a regulatory basis, the US allows the sale of e-cigarettes, which need to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they can be marketed, and Australia puts e-cigarettes on sale in pharmacies as prescription drugs.
In the author's view, the key reason for the different regulatory policies in the three countries is the different "service targets". The UK promotes e-cigarettes to serve smokers. The World Health Organisation's official website on smoking cessation is "Quitting tobacco", that is, quitting tobacco, because nicotine is not carcinogenic, the real harm of cigarettes originates from the combustion of tobacco produces more than 4,000 kinds of chemicals and 69 kinds of carcinogens, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco combustion process, can reduce the harm of cigarettes by 95%, and can significantly improve smokers' quitting. E-cigarettes reduce the harm of cigarettes by 95 per cent and can significantly improve the success rate of smokers in quitting.
"The UK government's tobacco control policy is a real service to adult smokers." wrote Virginia Berridge, first author of the book and a leading UK public health expert. In contrast, tobacco control policies in the United States and Australia are more focused on serving minors. In order to reduce the appeal of e-cigarettes to minors, the relevant authorities have continued to exaggerate the harms of e-cigarettes, resulting in many smokers having a negative impression of e-cigarettes and missing out on harm reduction opportunities.
In fact, there is no conflict between protecting minors and helping smokers. Cliff Douglas, former Vice President of Tobacco Control of the American Cancer Society, once pointed out in a public speech that the protection of adolescents and the support of adult smokers to quit smoking can and must be achieved at the same time. Cheryl Healton, a professor at New York University's School of Global Public Health, also stressed in a speech at the same time that smokers have the right to choose a harm reduction programme that suits them.
But the government's position is hard to change. The book mentions that in the UK, based on the stance of serving smokers, public health organisations proactively publicise the scientific evidence on e-cigarettes. In the United States and Australia, public health agencies have organised e-cigarette "terror campaigns", and even if a few public health experts come out in support of e-cigarettes, they will be slammed with dirty water and seen as taking money from e-cigarette companies.
In addition, the formulation of tobacco control policies is also related to the country's history, politics, industry interests and other factors. "There have been cases where tobacco companies have launched low-tar cigarettes, and later studies have confirmed that these products have little or no harm reduction effect. This has left many countries apprehensive about harm reduction strategies." The authors emphasise that e-cigarettes, unlike low-tar cigarettes, have a harm reduction effect that has been confirmed by extensive research.
In April 2023, the UK government launched the world's first 'switch to e-cigarettes before you quit' programme, which will increase the success rate of 1 million UK smokers by giving them free e-cigarettes. The authors point out in the book that the UK is blazing a new trail of tobacco control that is more rational than other countries, which will inspire countries such as the US and Australia to look at e-cigarettes in a new light, leaving behind stereotypical ideas.

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