Scientists in the UK say that if all of the world’s smokers switched from tobacco cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, millions of lives could be saved.
Currently in the UK an estimated 100,000 deaths per year are attributed to smoking. Worldwide that number is staggering at over five million.
Now researchers are hoping that an increase in the use of e-cigarettes could prevent most of these deaths.
Instead of inhaling the toxic chemicals found in tobacco, e-cigarette users inhale vaporized liquid nicotine. Robert West, professor of health psychology at University College London, told delegates at the 2013 E-Cigarette Summit at London’s Royal Society in November that “literally millions of lives could be saved.”
“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. I think it can be achieved but that’s a hope, a promise, not a reality,” he said.
This view is also shared by Dr. Jacques Le Houezec, a private consultant who has been researching the effects of nicotine and tobacco. He said that in comparison to tobacco, e-cigarette use should not be over-regulated.
Dr. Le Houezec also drew the delegates’ attention to a 1996 study that found that a person who inhaled nicotine for two years suffered no ill-effects. This was used to demonstrate the less harmful nature of electronic cigarettes.
“Every adolescent tries something new, many try smoking. I would prefer they try e-cigarettes to regular cigarettes.” Dr. Le Houezec added.
Lynne Dawkins, from the University of East London, said that while light-touch regulation was important, it must be treated with caution. She said that e-cigarettes presented a “viable safer alternative” to offer smokers.
“We don’t want to spoil this great opportunity we have for overseeing this unprecedented growth and evolving technology that has not been seen before, we have to be careful not to stump that.”