To effectively help smokers quit for good, three conditions must be met:
Firstly, smokers must be able to choose from as many options as possible to find out what smoking cessation method works best for them. People are different, and therefore different ways to give up smoking must be made available and affordable. For very few people (less than 4%), quitting with no help works. For a few, nicotine replacement therapy (such as nicotine gums or patches) works, and it turns out that for many people, new nicotine alternatives help them with quitting smoking once and for all. Those products range from vaping and heat-not-burn products to snus or nicotine pouches. What all these new forms have in common is that they separate nicotine consumption from the combustion of tobacco (which produces the vast majority of the toxicity of smoking), making them far less harmful than smoking cigarettes. Each one is different, each working best for each different person.
62% of smokers in France and 53% in Germany believe anti-smoking policies ignore how difficult it is to stop smoking. Clearly, smokers are not satisfied with traditional cessation methods and therefore look to vaping as a means of quitting
Secondly, we need a modern, open regulatory framework to fit these new alternatives. These new products are not the same as smoking. Hence, they must not be painted with the same regulatory brush. What we need instead is risk-based regulation. Vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking and, therefore, must not be treated the same way. Harm reduction must become a centrepiece of anti-smoking policies, like in the field of pharmaceutical drugs. Harm reduction follows practical strategies and solutions to reduce harmful consequences associated with using certain substances instead of an unrealistic `just quit´ approach. Encouraging smokers who are not able to or don't want to quit smoking to switch to vaping is a best-case example of harm reduction.
Thirdly, smokers must have accurate information about the potential risks of different products to make decisions. The same applies to medical professionals who are working with those smokers. They need to know the facts to make a lasting difference for smokers.
Unfortunately, a brand-new study commissioned by the Consumer Choice Centre, written in cooperation with the World Vapers' Alliance, reveals several misconceptions about vaping, nicotine, and harm reduction among healthcare practitioners and smokers.
Currently available scientific evidence is crystal clear: vaping is by far less harmful than smoking and should be part of every smoking cessation framework around the world...Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos
The survey was conducted to gain a greater insight into the impact of misperceptions about vaping among general practitioners, smokers, and policymakers, on the future harm reduction policy in Europe and found that only 3 out of 15 doctors in Germany say they even know the term ‘harm reduction’. So, even the people who could directly help smokers improve their lives are hardly informed about harm reduction. Tobacco Harm Reduction should be integrated into modern medical education. Vaping alone has the potential to help 19 million smokers in Europe, and 200 million worldwide quit smoking. Vaping is a 95% less harmful alternative to conventional cigarettes. Doctor Konstantinos Farsalinos, cardiologist and public health expert, states that "currently available scientific evidence is crystal clear: vaping is by far less harmful than smoking and should be part of every smoking cessation framework around the world."
Nevertheless, a worrying amount of 33% of smokers in France and 43% in Germany wrongly believe vaping is as harmful or more harmful than cigarettes. This is a massive problem for public health. Such wrong risk conceptions hinder millions of smokers from switching to less harmful alternatives such as vaping.
Additionally, 69% of smokers in France and 74% in Germany incorrectly believe that nicotine causes cancer. People may smoke to consume nicotine, but they die from the smoking, not the nicotine consumption. Many consumers and doctors mistakenly believe that nicotine causes various illnesses, while it is proven that the many other toxins involved in smoking are the ultimate culprit, as proven by the British National Health Service. Therefore, we need science-based risk communication addressed to smokers, the general public, and health practitioners to combat these wrong perceptions.
At the same time, 62% of smokers in France and 53% in Germany believe anti-smoking policies ignore how difficult it is to stop smoking. Clearly, smokers are not satisfied with traditional cessation methods and therefore look to vaping as a means of quitting.
It is time for politicians and public health officials to accept the facts and to endorse vaping as a harm reduction tool.
An advanced copy of the survey summary is available here.
Michael Landl is the Director of the World Vapers' Alliance. He is an experienced policy professional and a passionate vaper. Michael studied at the University of St. Gallen International Affairs and worked for several public policy outlets and the German Parliament.