Since they became mainstream, the debate over the benefits versus the drawbacks of electronic cigarettes has continued. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration of the United States Department of Health and Human Services) expressed their belief that they could be potentially dangerous early on, stating that without regulation, electronic cigarette products could easily be mislabelled. It is claims such as this which has caused instability and uncertainty within the industry.
Further to this, the enticing adverts and use of social media to appeal and engage with customers has increased pressure from regulators who wish to impose stricter laws in order to reduce the glamorisation of such products. It is the accessibility of these products through online means that has led many to conclude the draw they have on non-smokers, particularly teenagers, to be a huge issue that must be addressed.
For the industry to survive, it must adjust, to appease regulatory bodies, while appealing to smokers who wish to look for alternative means of quitting the habit. Many electronic cigarette companies are already taking this into consideration, implementing age verification on their websites, others are also stating their purpose, for example, AspireCigUK.co.uk state they aim to “… help you kick the habit.”
The benefits to ex-smokers appear to be undeniable, as explained on MedicalDaily.com, a study by an agency of Britain’s Department of Health found “Electronic cigarettes [to be] around 95 percent less harmful than tobacco and should be promoted as a tool to help smokers quit…” Since, smoking costs the NHS approximately £2 billion a year, the reduction of smoking related diseases should be welcomed, and therefore these products should remain accessible to those who benefit.
Just this month ScienceDaily.com published details of a study, whereby seven top international tobacco control experts reported research in the U.S., Canada and England showed cigarette smoking rates had fallen more in the last two years than they had in the five years previous. This trend coincides with the increase in e-cigarette use. “While e-cigarettes may act as a gateway to smoking, much of the evidence indicates that e-cigarette use encourages cessation from cigarettes by those people who would have otherwise smoked with or without e-cigarettes,”
This research suggests the use of electronic cigarettes can reduce the number of traditional smokers, and therefore deaths as a result from smoking related diseases. Thus, limiting access or imposing restrictions to them could in fact have the opposite effect and cause ex-smokers to take up the habit once more.
The debate may continue, but the fate of the industry in the UK is likely be directly tied to the upcoming referendum, which could see the UK leave the EU. Should it stay in the EU, legislation on the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), will look to regulate the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes. This could result in strict laws that restrict the production and sale of these products. So, do electronic cigarettes have a future? The answer is highly likely, but what it will look like will remain uncertain.
This article was written by Anna Morrish, freelance writer and founder of Quibble Content.