BEAMSVILLE, Ontario, Sept. 09, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — While Health Canada has acknowledged vaping as less harmful than smoking, Canadian health organizations have confused Canadians with campaigns contrary to the harm reduction message of their international counterparts. The UK has been steadfast in its support of vaping as a smoking harm reduction tool, often issuing press releases to reassure the public of vaping’s safety due to misperceptions caused by North American health organizations and media. Since the election call, 2,500 Canadians have died from smoking related disease and illness. The Canadian Vaping Association cautions the Government of Canada, that if flavour restrictions are pursued, there will be a corresponding increase in smoking followed by a slowed decline in smoking rates.
It is no wonder that Canadians are confused about the risk and efficacy of vaping products, given the advice from each country’s health organizations varies so widely. For example, the Canadian Lung Association states, “If you smoke and are using vaping to quit, know that there is not significant evidence to suggest vaping as an effective cessation support. Our recommendation is: do not vape,” while the British Lung Association states, “E-cigarettes are an important tool in bringing down the number of active smokers, but they should not be mistaken as a long-term replacement for smoking cigarettes, or as a harm-free alternative to taking up smoking.”
In comparing the advice from each of the prominent health groups in Canada and the UK, there is a common theme of the UK advising that vaping is not without some risk but it is significantly less harmful than smoking, while Canadian groups advise extreme caution or to not vape at all. Although Health Canada states that vaping is less harmful than smoking, groups such as Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada (PSFC), who are funded by the Canadian government, continue to intentionally conflate nicotine vaping with tobacco. This begs several questions, primarily, how can there be such a discordance between similar countries and which country’s policy has been the most beneficial for public health?
Public Health England (PHE) continues to reaffirm its assessment that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking. Over the past several years, the UK’s tobacco control policy has put a significant focus on harm reduction. In addition to large scale government run advertising campaigns encouraging smokers to switch to vaping, the UK has implemented a trial program that issues a vaping starter kit to smokers who are admitted to emergency departments. Vape shops are also found in many of the country’s hospitals. These programs, combined with a united message from all health organizations on the benefit of vaping for smokers, has helped pave the way for the UK to be smoke-free by 2030. A recent PHE release states, “E-cigarettes are currently the most popular stop smoking aid in England, with an estimated 2.5 million users. Over half (51%) have stopped smoking completely and of the 45% who still smoke, half say that they are vaping in order to stop smoking. The number who have quit smoking and vaping has reached 770,000.”
Meanwhile, New Zealand has recently implemented policy which aligns with the UK’s harm reduction position. The new policy was designed to strike a balance on vaping, ensuring access to vape products by smokers, while maintaining strong youth protections. Although policy has been recently implemented to strengthen youth protection and ensure product safety standards, New Zealand’s harm reduction position on vaping is not new. New Zealand has supported vaping for smokers since 2017, with the Ministry of Health stating, “Vaping has the potential to help people quit smoking, and contribute to New Zealand’s Smokefree 2025 goal.” Through New Zealand’s harm reduction focused policy, like the UK, New Zealand is on track to eliminate tobacco use within the decade.
This is a stark contrast to Canada’s current regressive policy proposal to ban flavours, in which, the department acknowledges one of the consequences will be an increase in smoking. Also noteworthy is Canada’s lagging tobacco prevalence reduction goal of less than 5% smoking prevalence by 2035. While until the recent proposal to restrict flavours Canada has had some of the most progressive vaping regulation in the world, the contradictory messaging to smokers by government funded health organizations such as PSFC and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), have likely played a significant role in slowing vaping adoption by smokers.
“The continued misinformation and half truths perpetrated by the likes of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada is killing smokers. Continuing to conflate vaping with tobacco and the systematic denial of the science on vaping by these health groups, has caused Canada to lag behind other Commonwealth nations in eliminating tobacco use. While these organizations often position their stance on vaping as a moral one, I suspect history will not reflect fondly on the faux-moral outrage that led to the death of thousands of smokers,” said Darryl Tempest, Executive Director of the CVA.
Darryl Tempest, Executive Director