Is this how science is communicated now? Really? Evidence just doesn't matter anymore, does it?
- Juhani Orelma
Rest of this post is the translation of a piece under "news" that was published at thl.fi in finnish only.
Electronic cigarettes are not solving the smoking problem
The international health community was recently shocked by the health agency of Englands’ (Public Health England) report on electronic cigarettes. The report says, that electronic cigarettes are much more harmless than cigarettes and a good way to quit smoking. According to the report, the availability of electronic cigarettes should not be restricted.
The report immediately stirred confusion and strict criticism from many organizations and experts. Criticism has been submitted by for instance the English doctors association and English public health agency and internationally the US public health agency and World Health Organization.
So what is it all about? There’s no doubt that an electronic cigarette or snus would not be less unhealthy than a cigarette. However, since cigarettes are highly dangerous, this doesn’t mean that electronic cigarette or snus would be safe by any means. A lot of study is needed on the health harms of electronic cigarettes.
The report proposes that electronic cigarettes are a good way to quit for smokers. Evidence on this is also flimsy, especially compared to the carefully studied smoking cessation products already on the market.
However, the core of the problem is elsewhere. The report examines current smokers and their switch from cigarettes to electronic tobacco. If this was the only viewpoint, the situation would be different.
Youth often starts experimentation with electronic cigarettes or snus. Using them can quickly lead to long-term nicotine dependence.
In turn, nicotine dependence leads to mixed use of nicotine products in many cases – also cigarette smoking that is. Evidence for this is rather strong. Therefore electronic cigarettes will not lead to the end of smoking cigarettes.
“In this situation it is understandable, that also the background of this startling report is investigated. As is noted by the recent editorial in the journal Lancet, the report appears to trace back to industry funding. The previously described progress, widespread marketing of electronic cigarettes and the continuation of smoking cigarettes are all in the interest of the tobacco industry” chairman of the expert team evaluating the WHO FCTC Pekka Puska notes.
“It is desirable, that this English report is received against this background also in Finland. I think it is important, like is planned in Finland, that electronic cigarettes are equated with cigarettes in tobacco legislation. This also matches the strict line regarding electronic cigarettes in the EU tobaccodirective” – Puska continues.
THL (National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland)