A milestone study of electronic cigarette safety in the UK has opened a debate on how the devices could be used to help thousands of smokers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
According to the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation, tobacco is killing one half to two thirds of tobacco users. But the use of electronic devices used to inhale the nicotine, removing the need to smoke, has been banned from import and sale within the UAE since 2011 by the Ministry of Health.
Health authorities across the globe have refused to support the gadgets as a pharmaceutical aid to help tobacco smokers quit, because the World Health Organisation has warned that chemicals used in the products may be unsafe.
That has not stopped the e-cig surge in popularity, and a growing vape subculture fueled by the black market selling of the devices; all without the harmful chemicals found in tobacco cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are not completely risk-free but, when compared with smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm.
While vaping may not be 100 per cent safe, most of the chemicals causing smoking-related disease are absent and the chemicals that are present pose limited danger. It had previously been estimated that e-cigarettes are about 95 per cent safer than smoking. This appears to remain a reasonable estimate.
Chemicals present in most e-cigarettes have not been associated with any serious risk, the study showed, whereas tobacco remained the largest single cause of preventable deaths in England. Despite criticism that three of the report’s eleven authors were funded by the e-cigarette industry, Public Health England has stuck by the findings and said independent experts agreed. The Ministry of Health, however, is standing firm in its stance as its experts are not convinced of their safety and they say the long-term effects on the lungs are not known.
Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, a medical researcher at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre, in Athens, Greece, discussed his research involving 20,000 e-cigarette users at the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi this year. Dr Farsalinos stated a lack of long-term studies on the effects of e-cigarettes should not be used as an excuse to ban them.
Even for medications, clinical studies are performed for months, then we do post-marketing monitoring. The same should happen with e-cigarettes. This is what the European Union is doing. I am confident that we can expect to see significant health benefits for smokers switching from tobacco to e-cigarette use.
Dr Farsalinos added that the latest data from the U.S. showed smoking had decreased to historically low levels at the same time that e-cigarette use was increased.
For countries such as the UAE, where smoking prevalence is high, e-cigarettes have a huge potential to reduce smoking-related disease and death. It is important that e-cigarettes are promoted to the population in an honest and science-based campaign.
My thoughts overall on e-cigarettes are extremely negative because they clot the blood. It thickens the blood and can cause heart attacks. People think they [heart attacks] are caused by blockages, but it is where the blood gets thicker, and that is caused by e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes. Any tobacco causes problems but nicotine is also causing damage. I would tell my patients who may be considering e-cigarettes that any amount of nicotine is harmful. It is also addictive.