Are E-Cigarette Regulations Jeopardizing the Public Health? A Review of the Evidence and Policy Missteps

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: The demonization of e-cigarettes in the U.S. is counterproductive. As part of a tobacco harm reduction strategy, the potential public health benefits from e-cigarettes are substantial. Opposition to e-cigarettes, often fueled by misleading information, curbs their use as a smoking cessation aid by millions of adults.

E-cigarettes are far less harmful than combustible cigarettes and constitute one of the most common -- and effective -- smoking cessation aids. Overzealous or poorly designed restrictions on vaping, combined with misleading information about e-cigarettes’ true health risks, are deterring smokers from pursuing a potentially life-saving alternative.

In some countries, particularly the United Kingdom, public health officials have embraced e-cigarettes as effective smoking cessation aids. So far, policymakers in the U.S. have adopted a far more skeptical, even hostile, stance toward e-cigarettes.

If e-cigarettes can reduce smoking rates, the public health gains -- particularly when compounded over long time spans -- could be substantial. If cigarette use were largely replaced by vaping over a 10-year period in the U.S., it would prevent as many as 6.6 million premature deaths.

A report by a government agency, the Public Health of England, an agency of England’s Department of Health and Social Care, reported that most consumers who vape do so in order to stop smoking. 

In 2014, researchers in Belgium introduced e-cigarettes to 48 smokers who had never vaped and were unwilling to quit smoking. The results showed that vaping was as effective as smoking a cigarette in reducing nicotine cravings. Eight months after the start of the study, 21%of all participants were completely abstinent from conventional cigarettes, while 23% had dramatically cut down on their smoking.

The doses of toxins contained in e-cigarettes are typically hundreds or thousands of times lower than in regular cigarettes. While non-smokers would be ill-advised to take up vaping, smokers could reap significant health benefits from switching to e-cigarettes.

Underage vaping by nonsmokers is rare, which supports the correlation that the rise in vaping has led to a decline in smoking among teens.

Not only does the hysteria surrounding e-cigarettes endanger smokers and jeopardize public health, it also undermines the credibility of health authorities on other important issues like the coronavirus and vaccines. The American public should be told the truth about e-cigarettes.

Read the full study here.