Question marks may still linger, but leading scientists in a recent study have concluded that electronic cigarettes could go on to prevent as many as 6.6m premature deaths in the United States of America.
It is a staggering number, and goes to show just how optimistic many scientists and healthcare professionals around the world are as to the positive impact electronic cigarettes can have on mortality rates caused by smoking. The results, which were published in the journal Tobacco Control, were found after scientists assessed likely outcomes should the majority of American smokers switch to electronic cigarettes.
They worked on both an optimistic and pessimistic basis, coming up with ‘best-case’ and ‘worst-case’ results should such a switch occur. Their most optimistic findings suggested that, assuming the risk of electronic cigarettes was five per cent of those posed by smoking tobacco and that only a minority of American smokers would still smoke by 2026, some 6.6m premature deaths could be avoided by 2100. That number is mind-boggling enough, but considering it constitutes 86.7m life years, the statistics are all the more incredible. That would represent a quarter of the estimated deaths (26.1m) which will occur if the situation remains wholly unchanged.
Even in the most pessimistic findings, with electronic cigarettes constituting a 40 per cent risk of tobacco, 1.6m lives would still be saved by the year 2100 – a paltry 20.8m life years.
There is also the impact on second-hand smokers to be considered. The World Health Organisation estimates that tobacco kills more than half of its consumers – roughly seven million every year. Nearly one million of those are people who are exposed to second-hand smoke – a number which would likely fall should electronic cigarettes continue to replace traditional tobacco-smoking methods.
Considering 19.3 per cent of American men and 14.1 per cent of American women are listed as smokers, mortality linked to tobacco looks likely to continue falling with the increased popularity of electronic cigarettes.
Of course, electronic cigarettes remain in their relative infancy, and only years of studies will conclude whether the technology really is completely safe. However, there is very little doubt among specialists that the absence of combustion makes all clean nicotine delivery systems much safer than traditional cigarettes. In a harm reductionist approach, products like electronic cigarettes, gums, patchs and heat-not-burn can therefore be considered a positive path for smokers willing to switch (and unable to stop “cold turkey” which obviously would be better than any other option). Kenneth Warner, University Professor of Public Health and Former Dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health: “We know that these alternative products, when compared to the dangers of combustible tobacco products, aredramatically less dangerous. There’s just no question about that. “
Indeed, electronic cigarettes did receive a major boost earlier this year, with the Food and Drug Administration loosening restrictions on vaping products and outlining plans to reduce usage of combustible cigarettes and tobacco.
Ultimately, it appears that electronic cigarettes are an effective method of quitting smoking.
And statistics such as those shown in the Tobacco Control journal will only serve to reinforce that argument.