Robert West, a professor of health psychology and director of tobacco studies at the University College London has taken a pretty bold stance on the impact the electronic cigarettes — also known as nicotine vaporizers — will have on human health.
West studies smoking, addiction, what drives smokers to light up, and what can help them quit.
At the 2013 E-Cigarette Summit at London’s Royal Society he proclaimed that e-cigarettes have the potential to save millions of lives, according to the BBC.
“The big question, and why we’re here, is whether that goal can be realised and how best to do it … and what kind of cultural, regulatory environment can be put in place to make sure that’s achieved,” the BBC quotes the professor as saying. “I think it can be achieved but that’s a hope, a promise, not a reality.”
Currently there aren’t many regulations on the e-cigarette industry, but some researchers and e-cig advocates are worried that the “cigarette” designation and regulation under existing tobacco laws will be too harsh. Already, many places are banning e-cigarette use in public places.
But without any regulation, there’s no way to ensure quality and safety of these products, which have been reported to overheat and potentially combust.
While they can’t say for sure that nicotine vaporizers are healthy or don’t cause cancer, it’s fairly easy to say they have fewer negative health impacts than traditional cigarettes. Of the limited studies that have been done, none seem to show extensive negative health effects. (Though, to be fair, none have been long-term studies.)
E-cigarettes may not give you cancer like tobacco cigarettes do, but they may still raise the risk of heart disease, stroke and other health issues. But, if they help smokers stop lighting up, they could save lives.
At the moment, e-cigarettes are a pretty strong market: The business is up to $1 billion a year and could potentially be worth $US3 billion. But strong regulation against this burgeoning business could cut this trend before it’s really gotten started.
It would also endanger the lives of people addicted to nicotine who don’t want to smoke traditional cigarettes.
Note: West does research and consultancy for companies that develop and manufacture smoking cessation medications including licensed nicotine products.
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