Could e-cigarettes save smokers’ lives? Some health advocates think so
by Carly Weeks from The Globe and Mail (Canada)
Are electronic cigarettes dangerous and potentially hazardous to health or an important tool that can help people quit smoking?
It depends on whom you ask.
Many Canadian health organizations once viewed e-cigarettes, which are battery-powered and turn a liquid solution into a vapour, as a threat. But as more evidence emerges of their potential role in helping people wean themselves off cigarettes, those attitudes are rapidly shifting.
Michael Siegel, a physician and professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, says e-cigarettes “could literally save thousands of lives.”
Despite this, the federal government doesn’t allow e-cigarettes containing nicotine to be sold in Canada. A large number of public-health experts and tobacco-control advocates are pressing for a change. While there are many unknowns about the long-term safety of e-cigarettes and whether they help people quit smoking, it appears they are a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.
“I think we owe it to the five million Canadians who are addicted to tobacco products. If there’s a product out there that may have some merit to bring down those numbers, we have to look at it,” said Jennifer Miller, vice-president of health promotion with the Lung Association.
The Lung Association used to warn that e-cigarette users were inhaling toxic chemicals. But new evidence convinced the organization to change its position and it says they may be a valuable smoking cessation aid.
Former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who brought the world’s attention to the dangers of secondhand smoke and pushed for indoor smoking bans, joined the board of a major e-cigarette company last month. Carmona said that it is essential to have a high-quality alternative to traditional cigarettes.
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