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Public Health Leaders Call For ‘Correction Of Mistaken Beliefs’ On Vaping

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Leading researchers in the field of public health are calling on the scientific community to correct misconceptions about vapor products and embrace their potential to boost global health.

An article from a group of scientists appearing in the Annual Review of Public Health, which is set to be released in April, argues that the mounting scientific evidence on e-cigarettes favors the argument that vaping drastically reduces the health risks from combustible tobacco. They say the public health community must work to correct misinformation that the devices carry similar harms to cigarettes, which is currently dominating mainstream media coverage of vaping.

“Alternative nicotine delivery systems, such as e-cigarettes, have the potential to disrupt the 120-year dominance of the cigarette and challenge the field on how the tobacco pandemic could be reversed if nicotine is decoupled from lethal inhaled smoke,” Dr. David Abrams, professor of social and behavioral sciences at NYU College of Global Public Health and lead author of the article, said in a press release Thursday. “E-cigarettes could provide a means to compete with, and even replace, cigarette use, saving more lives more rapidly than previously possible.”

In the forthcoming article, titled Harm Minimization and Tobacco Control: Reframing Societal Views of Nicotine Use to Rapidly Save Lives, the researchers argue that vaping technology gives society the unique chance to make a significant dent in smoking rates worldwide. By harnessing the power of a cessation tool that actually satisfies smokers’ cravings, we can vastly improve the state of global health, according to the scientists. (RELATED: Expert Debunks Vaping ‘Gateway’ Myth, Ripping ‘Bad Science In Service Of Bad Theories’)

“Studies show that if most current American smokers switched to vaping e-cigarettes over the next 10 years, there could be as many as 6.6 million fewer premature deaths and 86.7 million fewer life years would be lost,” Abrams said in the press release Thursday. “The safest course is to stop smoking or, better, never to start. But a harm minimization approach recognizes that demanding absolute perfection is often counterproductive and that, when a harmful behavior cannot be eliminated, we can still dramatically reduce adverse health consequences.”

Instead of alarmism over the alleged threats posed by vapor products, users should be taught about the relative risks of these products when compared to smoking. The researchers argue efforts to spread misinformation on alternative smoking options that minimize their benefits simply deny smokers less harmful options while tacitly encouraging them to keep using a more dangerous product.

The group includes scientists from New York University (NYU), the Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies, the Truth Initiative, the University of Nevada and the University of Vermont.

Vapor products, which heat liquid nicotine and contain no tobacco, eliminate roughly 95 percent of the health harms associated with cigarettes because the majority of disease-causing chemicals are only released through combustion, according to Public Health England, an arm of the U.K.’s Department of Health.

Despite the onslaught of misinformation in the media on the supposed threats posed by vapor products, millions of former smokers in the U.S. are transitioning to the harm reduction tools and quitting combustible cigarettes. Roughly 2.62 million former smokers were using a vape in 2016.

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