Our advocacy: Reasonable regulations for smoke-free products

 

At Smoke-Free Ph, we believe that we need reasonable regulations for smoke-free products. This will ensure that these products are more attractive compared to cigarettes and will encourage adult users to stop using cigarettes and move to these products. This is something that will benefit smokers, their families, friends, and communities. Having very strict regulations on smoke-free products will only benefit cigarette products and give the public the wrong impression that these are just as bad or even worse than cigarettes. 

 

There are very valid concerns about not regulating or imposing very lax regulations for smoke-free products. However, there are also valid arguments against going to the other extreme or resorting to a total ban. This is the idea of striking a balance or having regulation that is proportional to the degree of product harm. It is a concept that has also been expounded by Prof. Abrams and his co-authors when they stated that

 

A core harm minimization principle is that policy, regulation, and advocacy be science based and proportional to the degree of product harm, with the most restrictive strategies applying to the most harmful products. 

Cigarettes are the most harmful of these products and should be most stringently regulated. Smoke-free products should be regulated less severely than cigarettes. As the product that causes the most harm in the choices available to smokers, it makes sense to have the strictest and harshest regulations for cigarette products. When you move to the other end of nicotine-containing products, the more reasonable approach is to have a different set of rules to make these products more attractive to smokers. Public Health England, for example, advises that “regulations need to balance the risks of EC with their potential benefits—and achieve key aims of reducing smoking and continuing to avoid uptake of EC by non-smokers. This requires keeping them under regular review and evaluating their impact. Regulations for heated tobacco products should be made as least as stringent as for EC.” This approach can be done while guarding against youth access and initiation of non-smokers. Having an evidence-based approach to regulating smoke-free products and shielding these products from children and from non-smokers are not mutually exclusive.

Over-all, experts predict that the use of smoke-free alternatives as part of a government tobacco control policy will yield more benefits than harm: Levy et al, Potential deaths averted in USA by replacing cigarettes with e-cigarettes (January 2018)

US tobacco control policies to reduce cigarette use have been effective, but their impact has been relatively slow. This study considers a strategy of switching cigarette smokers to e-cigarette use (’vaping’) in the USA to accelerate tobacco control progress.

Findings.

Compared with the Status Quo, replacement of cigarette by e-cigarette use over a 10-year period yields 6.6 million fewer premature deaths with 86.7 million fewer life years lost in the Optimistic Scenario. Under the Pessimistic Scenario, 1.6 million premature deaths are averted with 20.8 million fewer life years lost. The largest gains are among younger cohorts, with a 0.5 gain in average life expectancy projected for the age 15 years cohort in 2016.

Conclusions.

The tobacco control community has been divided regarding the role of e-cigarettes in tobacco control. Our projections show that a strategy of replacing cigarette smoking with vaping would yield substantial life year gains, even under pessimistic assumptions regarding cessation, initiation and relative harm.