Professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of the Health and Lifestyle Research Unit at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine
In my presentation on “Using nicotine to help smokers quit” at the 6th Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw, Poland, I was comparing the reactions to the launch of nicotine replacement treatments (NRT) in 1980s with the reactions that have been meeting the recent advance of alternative nicotine products.
When nicotine chewing gum first appeared, there were concerns about its safety, its potential to entice children to nicotine use, and doubts about giving smokers the drug they are trying to quit.
Evidence and common sense however prevailed fairly rapidly and NRT was accepted practically universally as a safe and effective treatment.
The same objections have been revived by opponents of e-cigarettes, with some new ones added, especially the claim based on animal studies that nicotine damages adolescent brains (support of the hypothesis by human data is lacking, e.g. dramatic reductions in adolescent smoking that took place in a number of countries were not accompanied by improvements in mental health).
There are also claims that smokers who switched to vaping did not really quit smoking (they did), that vaping prevents rather than facilitates quitting (it helps smokers quit), and that dual use, i.e. combining vaping and smoking, is more risky than smoking (it reduces toxin intake from smoking).
Evidence and common sense are facing a much harder battle the second time round.
Padma Shri Awardee
President Elect Confederation of Medical Associations in Asia and Oceania (CMAAO)
Group Editor-in-Chief IJCP Publications
President Heart Care Foundation of India