England Recommends E-Cigarettes as a Life-Saving Alternative to Smoking

The upside of not smoking cigarettes? It's not smoking cigarettes. 

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During an otherwise pleasant car ride in True Detective’s third episode, Paul Woodrugh scornfully asks Ani Bezzerrides, “Is that a fucking e-cigarette?” Well, Paul, e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than genuine cancer sticks, and Public Health England (PHE) thinks smokers should start vaping, Agence France-Presse reports.

According to London’s National Health Service (NHS), smoking resulted in 80,000 deaths per year — England’s leading cause of preventable death. PHE’s study concedes that e-cigarettes aren’t risk-free, but any alternative that includes “not smoking cigarettes” is a healthier option.

It’s widely believed that e-cigarettes function as a sort of “gateway drug” to smoking tobacco. A study out of California found just this week that high school students who vape are likelier to try cigars and cigarettes. Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University (one of the authors), however, defended the misperception as a simple correlation:

It just shows that people who are attracted to e-cigarettes are the same people who are attracted to smoking. People who drink white wine are more likely to try red wine than people who do not drink alcohol.

PHE cannot currently implement its suggestion because e-cigarettes aren’t cleared for medical licensing in England. Nevertheless, the idea of providing a comparable alternative to smoking is a good, although not new, one. Nicotine patches and gum have long existed, but haven’t overtaken big tobacco. E-cigarettes could finally be the viable option for quitting because it still provides nicotine and it retains the ritual act of smoking. Smoking can’t reasonably get any more harmful, so it’s worth trying anything else to improve our collective health.

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