Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Head To Head

Should electronic cigarettes be as freely available as tobacco cigarettes? No

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 14 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3840

Rapid Response:

Re: Should electronic cigarettes be as freely available as tobacco cigarettes? No

I myself began vaping 9 weeks ago after 9 previous unsuccessful quit attempts. The only treatment which worked in getting me off tobacco for any significant period was varenicline which has the unfortunate possible (and alarmingly common) side effect of causing sudden psychiatric disorders including suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide so given the choice of a pill which may make me try to end my life or a simple electronic device which delivers the nicotine I crave with none of the deadly toxins that unfortunately go hand in hand with tobacco smoke, I bought my first ecig.

9 weeks on I am tobacco free, my health has already improved considerably, my lungs function as they should, my children are not exposed to the multitude of toxic fumes that clung to my clothes when I came back in after going outside for a smoke and the online communities and forums that have sprung up around the topic of vaping show that my experience is not unique.

An estimated 1.2million+ people in the UK now use ecigs, presumably for the same reasons I do and if the Government and various Public Health body's main aim is truly that of improving public health and reducing mortality from tobacco related diseases why would they possibly seek to over-regulate the ecig industry and inevitably destroy our best hope yet of seeing the end of tobacco dependency and all the hideous disease and death that it causes.

Would I welcome more study into the long term effects of vaping - Yes

Would I welcome standardised legislation to back up the ECITA standards already adhered to by its members to ensure that the products I buy are safe and effective - Yes

Do I think that Medicinal Licensing is appropriate or necessary for a recreational product that is already self regulated - No

The most likely outcome of Medicinal Licensing is that all but the largest of companies (ie Big Pharma and Big Tobacco) would find it cost prohibitive or indeed impossible to obtain the necessary licensing leaving the market again monopolised by tobacco peddling giants and pharmaceutical companies whose NRT's have dismal long term success rates. The overwhelming majority of consumers would be left to bounce between the two should they wish to quit nicotine completely and medicinal licensing would likely put an end to the option which is now available for those, like me, who want (or need) to use nicotine as a recreational drug for its relaxative qualities without seriously compromising their health.

Formal regulation of the industry is inevitable, but medicinal licensing would prevent further development of new products by making it cost prohibitive and be detrimental to public health as it would inevitably force millions of people to revert to or keep on smoking tobacco and condemn them to suffer the effects of tobacco related ill health which would in turn continue to burden the NHS.

I do not profess to be an expert, a doctor or a scientist but all the information available to me points me to one conclusion, that for a smoker looking for a safe and effective nicotine delivery system, the ecig in my hand is the only option currently available and to over regulate it into an effective ban would be ludicrous and counter productive and their sale to adult smokers should be encouraged, not minimised.

Competing interests: No competing interests

17 June 2013
James N Harry
Local government officer
Swansea SA1