Even though they are touted as being a healthier alternative to smoking regular cigarettes, not every country has embraced the use of electronic cigarettes. Many countries have banned their use, while other countries have regulated them and allow them to be sold in pharmacies with a prescription. The British government has been considering whether to ban them or how to regulate e-cigarettes. While some groups and researchers are encouraging the ban, others are asking authorities to lightly regulate the popular smoking alternative.
E-Cigarette Popularity in the UK
Electronic cigarettes are used by many people to reduce their smoking habit and/or to help them permanently quit. Studies have shown that they are just as effective as nicotine patches when it comes to helping people quit smoking. A study of 657 participants conducted at the University of Auckland showed the over 7% of the participants greatly reduced their use of tobacco or quit after using e-cigarettes for six months. In comparison, not quite 6% of the participants using nicotine patches had similar results.
Over 1 million people in the United Kingdom regularly use e-cigarettes, either exclusively or sometimes in combination with regular cigarettes to reduce their smoking habit. A poll recently conducted for the show BBC Breakfast showed that most of the 1,000 participants were in favor of the use of e-cigarettes in public places and didn’t want to see them banned.
Of those that were polled, 62% said that the smoking alternative shouldn’t be banned in public places and 75% responded that they wouldn’t mind if they were used near their families. Many people argue that the “smoke” that comes out of e-cigarettes is harmless because it is water vapor, not the same type of harmful chemicals that is expelled from regular cigarettes.
When e-cigarettes are used, liquid nicotine is vaporized and blown out of the mouth. Some users think that they will encourage smokers to use them because they will see them as an alternative and they will want to switch to e-cigarettes. However, whether e-cigarettes are healthier than standard tobacco cigarettes is still being debated.
Too Early to Tell
Since e-cigarettes don’t produce smoke, the current smoking ban doesn’t apply to them. However, that doesn’t mean that electronic cigarettes are not harmful, they just haven’t been around long enough for studies to be done on their safety and the effects they may have on users. Even though some experts from the British Medical Association acknowledged that they can save lives, they want to see their use banned in public areas.
Some public places have taken it upon themselves to ban the use of e-cigarettes based on advice from the BMA. Trains, airlines and chains like JD Wetherspoon have placed bans on using e-cigarettes. The University of London also recently placed a ban on them based on the BMA’s advice, so said a spokesman from the University. For now, the government is allowing businesses to decide for themselves whether to ban them or not.
This has created some confusion for users of the product. They are allowed in the supermarket chain Asda’s, but the Sainbury’s stores have banned their use. One cafe may not allow their use, while another one across the street may. While it can be confusing for users, many people prefer that over a general ban.
It will take several years for their effect to be studied and released, which could be hard to do because most people use e-cigarettes to help them stop smoking. For now the debate will continue, but in 2016, they will be classified as medicine in the UK, which may require a prescription to buy them.