One of the most prevalent questions in the e-cigarette debate may finally have an answer
As vaping has grown into a booming industry, it becomes more critical to understand whether or not it provides an overall benefit to society. Ask most vapers who use to smoke, and they’ll likely tell you that without e-cigarettes they may never have quit at all. But at the same time, many are concerned that accepting vaping as a legitimate harm reduction tool will normalize them to the point of slowing or reversing the declining smoking rate in teens. Well, new research may finally provide some answers to this widespread debate.
A new study published by the University of Michigan shows that vaping provides a net benefit for society. The researchers concluded that over 3 million life-years could be saved by 2070 if vaping was supported instead of regulated as a tobacco product. While they were sure to acknowledge that more research is needed, they firmly believe that the benefits far outweigh any adverse effects of increased vaping acceptance.
The New Study
This new analysis was conducted by Dr. Kenneth Warner and Dr. David Mendez using a sophisticated simulation to determine what sort of effect different stances on vaping could have in the future. Published in the Nicotine and Tobacco Research Journal, the report looked at several different sets of variables to understand how each one affected the others. After pouring over each of the data sets, Dr. Warner and Dr. Mendez focused on those deemed the most relevant based on real-world parameters. These simulations showed that if left as they are, vaping would have positive and negative effects on society over the next 50 years. But the bottom line is that these benefits are much more significant than the negatives.
Their base simulation concluded that around 3.5 million life-years would be saved by 2070 if further regulations are not placed on the vaping industry. This compares with the approximately 260,000 life-years lost in this scenario due to youth initiation to combustible cigarettes via vaping. While no one wants to support something that could lead some to a life of smoking, those who are already smoking need to be encouraged to end the habit any way they find useful. Even when the Doctors adjusted for the possibility that some of their conservative estimates could alter the final conclusion, it barely moved the needle at all. They still observed a massive net positive for societal health.
The Jury Is Still Out… But Not On Cigarettes
Both Dr. Warner and Dr. Mendez believe that their research doesn’t end the debate entirely. They fully understand that vaping is too new of an invention to have enough long-term evidence to know anything for sure. But at the same time, they know that on the other hand, smoking is something we have an ocean of evidence proving is extremely dangerous. With that in mind, they genuinely believe that in a case like this we must support vaping since it’s clearly not as dangerous as smoking, and it’s proven to help smokers quit. Ultimately, if the only alternative is continued smoking, they firmly advocate for vaping.
Dr. Warner even went as far as to say “It could take years before we know the full health impact of vaping, if indeed we ever will… Meanwhile, we have a crisis on our hands. Five hundred thousand people are dying each year as a result of smoking. One out of six Americans remain as smokers.” Dr. Mendez was one of the co-authors of the comprehensive National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report published recently. That review of over 800 vaping studies similarly concluded that while they do present some risk of initiating teens to smoking, the benefit is overwhelming.
It’s understandable why so many people would be concerned with vaping and how it could normalize smoking among the youth. After all, our children are the future, and we only want the best for them. But when you take a look at the actual statistics, it’s clear that this is hardly a risk at all. Several polls looking into the makeup of teenage vapers found that the overwhelming majority of teen vapers had already been smoking cigarettes before ever picking up a vape. If that ends up holding true, that means that for most teens, vaping is merely providing the same service it provides adult smokers. Giving them a legitimate way to curb their cravings without seriously risking their health.
Meanwhile, half a million people die from smoking-related diseases every year. What good does it do to equate vaping with smoking if it ultimately only encourages vapers to return to smoking? If we sincerely value ending the smoking epidemic once and for all, we must aim to support vaping as a harm reduction and smoking cessation tool. While still making sure to continue ad campaigns that teach kids about the dangers of smoking, and how vaping is not harmless, but instead a medical device for lowering risk. This is the path we must start going down if we ever hope to win this fight.
Do you believe that vaping is providing a net benefit for society? How can we convince skeptics that vaping is a key to ending smoking? Do you think that increased acceptance of vaping is leading kids to pick up tobacco? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.