Cover Feature

E-cigarettes save lives

I understand why anti-smoking activists so distrust vaping. I'm one of them. But the evidence is clear

21 February 2015

9:00 AM

21 February 2015

9:00 AM

In the 1970s, a group of students in South Africa were planning a campaign against tobacco. I was one of them. We paid a visit to Rembrandt, the country’s leading cigarette manufacturer, to hear their side of the story.

They showed us shiny floors, introduced us to well-paid employees of all races — a rarity in apartheid South Africa — and proudly described their extensive support for the arts, culture and the environment. We replied that this was great, but it failed to address the core issue: their products killed half their regular users and harmed many more.

So the campaign went ahead. For me, it was the start of decades of battles with tobacco companies that led to strong regulations in South Africa — and culminated in the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, now in effect in almost 180 countries.

Along the way, I learnt to distrust every move by tobacco companies and felt fully justified when an inquiry, supported by WHO and the World Bank, declared: ‘Evidence… reveals that tobacco companies have operated for many years with the deliberate purpose of subverting the efforts of WHO to control tobacco use. The attempted subversion has been elaborate, well financed, and usually invisible.’

It’s not surprising that most people in public health strongly endorse the view of Dr Neil Schluger, a lung specialist and professor of medicine at Columbia University, that ‘If there ever was an industry that does not deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to protecting or promoting the public’s health, it is the tobacco industry.’ The industry’s deceptions have included the development of low-tar products and a crafty message suggesting that they did less harm. Years after their launch, however, research showed that low-tar cigarettes had exactly the opposite effect.

Now we have electronic cigarettes. Is this the latest ruse, or is it really an innovation we should welcome?

Let’s review the appalling statistics. There are about 1.3 billion smokers in the world and roughly six million smoking-related deaths every year. In the United Kingdom alone, smoking causes 80,000 deaths. That’s 18 per cent of all deaths. What’s more, for every death there are 20 smokers suffering from tobacco-related diseases, resulting in 450,000 hospital admissions each year. No other single cause of death and disease can so easily be prevented.

The WHO framework convention stresses the value of government-led measures: increasing excise taxes, banning all marketing and advertising, and promoting smoke-free workplaces. Early in its development, we invited tobacco company scientists to provide evidence that their harm-reduction measures were real and not merely marketing ploys. Their responses were unconvincing.

At the same time, the first public evidence emerged that, for decades, tobacco companies had a sophisticated understanding of the role of nicotine. But they had failed to act on this knowledge and separate the harm caused by combusted tobacco from the ‘pleasure’ some people obtain from nicotine.

Let’s take a quick look at another tobacco product — one that’s never caught on in the UK. Snus is smokeless tobacco in a little packet that Swedes tuck against their gum in order to get a nicotine buzz. For many years, the increased use of snus versus regular tobacco has been a major factor in Swedish men having the lowest death rate in the European Union.

Indeed, death rates from all causes among European men are about 2.5 times higher than among Swedish men — thanks, in part, to snus. Also, as snus use has increased, smoking has decreased. Snus was banned in all EU countries except Sweden (and Norway, which isn’t in the EU). In Finland, the ban slowed down the drop in smoking. In Norway, by contrast, snus consumption by adults rose from 4 per cent in 1985 to 28 per cent in 2012 — and overall tobacco use fell by 20 per cent.


What drove these changes? Tobacco advertising (including for snus) has long been banned in all three countries. Public health authorities speak out against all forms of tobacco, including snus. Nonetheless, consumers, influenced by price and information from social networks, have increased their use of snus.

So what has this to do with the emerging e-cigarette debate?

We’ve seen that snus is banned in most of Europe despite overwhelming evidence that it is harm-reducing. And now e-cigs and other innovative ways of delivering nicotine without the dangers created by burning tobacco face the same challenge.

Traditionalists demand more of the same policies that have significantly reduced tobacco use: excise taxes, full implementation of smoke-free workplaces and more effective anti-smoking advertising. Long-term projections say this would reduce smoking in the United States from the current 20 per cent to 10 per cent by 2030. That’s welcome — but it still leaves millions of smokers at risk.

The call for higher excise taxes ignores rising concerns about their regressive impact on poorer and more-addicted smokers. It also ignores advances in the genetics of nicotine use, suggesting that half of all smokers may not respond to tax increases because of their need for nicotine. In other words, our one-size-fits-all approach to tobacco control is doomed to fail.

Action on Smoking and Health estimates that 2.1 million British adults currently use e-cigs. About one third are former smokers, and two thirds are still smokers. Meanwhile, regular use of e-cigarettes by children and adolescents is confined almost entirely to current and former smokers. Users claim that e-cigs help them stop smoking entirely (38 per cent) or reduce the amount they smoke (25 per cent). Robert West, professor of health psychology at University College London, reports that e-cig use by never-smokers is negligible and similar to that of nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT).

In recent years, the increase in the popularity of e-cigs has more than offset a decrease in NRT use. Successful attempts to quit smoking, although escalating, are still low, at between 5 and 7 per cent. E-cigs could play a major role in helping those smokers most addicted to nicotine, who are shifting in increasing numbers from NRT products to ‘vaping’ as their means of quitting the tobacco habit.


Safety concerns were addressed recently. Two analyses reviewed toxicological, laboratory and clinical research on the potential risks. They concluded that e-cigs are by far less harmful than smoking, and that ‘significant health benefits are expected in smokers who switch from tobacco to e-cigs’. Yet governments and the WHO remain unconvinced about the benefits of e-cigs. There is deep distrust of tobacco companies. This is borne out by article 5.3 of the framework convention, which requires that ‘in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law’ — i.e., avoid any interaction with tobacco companies. But this policy is impossible to implement in countries where democratic law-making processes require interaction with all stakeholders, or where the government owns a tobacco company.

Moreover, it limits the potential to make use of scientific discoveries by tobacco companies. At a WHO tobacco control conference last October, governments stressed the need to protect tobacco-control activities from all commercial and other interests. That effectively means not talking to researchers developing new and safer products. They also wanted governments to consider prohibiting or regulating e-cigs as tobacco products — which would be a huge boost to the deadly status quo.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already announced its intention to regulate e-cigs as tobacco products. About $2.2 billion was spent on e-cigs in America last year, exceeding the amount spent on NRT but still representing a small part of the $85 billion cigarette market.

At the same time, however, the FDA seems to favour a transition away from lethal combustible products. Mitch Zeller, director of its Centre for Tobacco Products, wants us to look at nicotine differently. People ‘smoke for nicotine but die from tar’, he says, and new products represent a public health opportunity.

The FDA’s measured approach is in contrast to the continued unscientific approach of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, whose director Dr Tom Frieden stated last year that ‘many kids are starting out with e-cigarettes and then going on to smoke conventional cigarettes’. They have yet to produce evidence that this is the case. In November, Penny Woods from the British Lung Foundation said ‘[new] data should again alleviate the fears expressed by some over an e-cig gateway effect’. Let’s spell this out. Unsupported statements are accepted as truth by policymakers and are used as the basis for stringent regulation of e-cigs in many jurisdictions.

This may well end up causing more public health harm than good. The benefits of e-cigs in helping smokers quit or cut down should be weighed against the danger of either recruiting new smokers or creating e-cig addicts. So far, there is no evidence that either of these things is happening. Studies in both Britain and America suggest that, as e-cig use increases, youth cigarette consumption declines.

Why are we in this position? One reason is that governments have become addicted to tobacco excise tax and may fear that, as e-cigs take off, they will lose a valuable source of revenue. Many leading NGOs and academics exert strong influence at WHO, within governments, in the media and among the general public. In the past, they helped bring tobacco control out of the shadows and into the mainstream of health policy. Now, alas, their intransigence threatens more profound progress.

We need clear, unambiguous messages to smokers about the safety and benefits of e-cigs. An example is the March 2014 statement on the Royal College of Physicians website that ‘the main benefit of e-cigarettes is that they provide inhalable nicotine in a formulation that mimics the behavioural components of smoking but has relatively little risk… Switching completely from tobacco to e-cigarettes achieves much the same in health terms as does quitting smoking and all nicotine use completely. Furthermore… risks associated with passive exposure to e-cigarette vapour are far less than those associated with passive exposure to tobacco smoke.’

If influential health officials were to make these points repeatedly, public sentiment towards e-cigs would shift quickly. And this could be done at the same time as strengthening anti-smoking measures.

We should praise ‘good’ e-cig companies who commit to safety, to avoiding youth marketing, and to making smoking obsolete. They need to be explicit about their long-term plans. Are they seriously committed to harm reduction, or introducing new products simply to delay progress and confuse policymakers, as many in public health believe?

From my meetings with major tobacco companies, it’s clear that they are hedging their bets. Some of them have indicated, in private, a long-term goal of moving out of manufacturing harmful tobacco products — but these statements are not enough to inspire trust. Tobacco companies’ intention to change must be stated publicly and backed by action.

Other market sectors need to adapt to the reality of e-cigs as a force for good. Retailers should voluntarily withdraw cigarettes from stores, or at least reduce their prominence, in favour of e-cigs and NRTs. CVS Health has yet to offer e-cigs, despite the fact that they work better than pharmaceutical products. Life insurers still treat e-cig users as regular smokers when they calculate premiums. This is short-sighted and misses a golden opportunity to spell out the benefits of quitting smoking and the positive impact of switching to e-cigs on people’s longevity.

At the moment, it’s estimated that there will be a billion tobacco-related deaths before 2100. That is a dreadful prospect. E-cigs and other nicotine-delivery devices such as vaping pipes offer us the chance to reduce that total. All of us involved in tobacco control need to keep that prize in mind as we redouble efforts to make up for 50 years of ignoring the simple reality that smoking kills and nicotine does not.

A toxic legacy

Evidence that the tobacco companies knew of the importance of nicotine to smokers 50 years ago:
— ‘Nicotine is addictive. We are, then, in the business of selling nicotine, an addictive drug effective in the release of stress mechanisms.’ 17 July 1963, Brown & Williamson general counsel/vice president Addison Yeaman.
— ‘It is my conviction that nicotine … both helps the body to resist external stress and also can as a result show a pronounced tranquillising effect. … under modern conditions of life people find that they cannot depend just on their subconscious reactions to meet the various environmental strains with which they are confronted. … smoking has considerable psychological advantages and a built-in control against excessive absorption. It is almost impossible to take an overdose of nicotine in the way it is only too easy to do with sleeping pills.’ 29 May 1962, BAT memo ‘The Smoking and Health Problem’

Derek Yach is executive director of the Vitality Institute and previously headed tobacco control at the WHO.

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Show comments
  • brossen99

    E-Cigs are counter productive & most people don’t smoke for the Nicotine anyway !
    It must be reasonable to believe that the whole object of the Lancashire Care smoking ban exercise is to sell nicotine replacement products offered by drug corporates and their agents. As a smoker myself I have tried patches when they first came out but found they made me smoke more, I can’t use gum or other oral products as the all contain cancer causing Aspartame which I am allergic to. The inhaler just made me cough if I sucked hard enough to get any useful dose into my lungs at all. I have also tried e-cigs but again they led me to crave real tobacco even more and therefore I conclude that most theoretically mentally ill people smoke for the chemicals other than nicotine in tobacco and probably also the carbon monoxide as well.

    • brossen99
    • VapeMeStoopid

      I’m sorry but if you are a smoker and tried an ecig that left you craving tobacco, then you didn’t have an ecig that worked for you. Do a little bit more research and you can find one that “hits the spot”.

      Scientific evidence shows that people smoke for the nicotine which combined with other combustible chemicals make cigarettes more addictive. Ecigs are a game changer for many people and while I am saddened they didn’t work for you, it doesn’t make you an expert.

      PS Ecigs do not contain carbon monoxide, thats a byproduct of burning, flames, fire…things ecigs dont do,.

    • stevechelt

      I am lucky in that the first ecig I tried was a good product, bought after quite a few days research and on the recommendation of a friend who switched at least 5 years ago from now. There are many different types available, some very good and some dreadful, also many types/flavours of ecig fluid, again some very good and some that are not good at all. Modern vaping shops will let you try a number of flavours which is a very good idea.

      I think most people do smoke for the nicotine. Years ago I tried ultra-low tar and nicotine cigarettes, also herbal cigarettes, with both I was left with a craving to smoke more to try to top up my nicotine level. My craving for tobacco ceased very quickly once I tried ecigs. I found I could either have a cigarette or use the ecig, both satisfied that craving. So two days after buying the ecig I decided to see how it went if I only used it for a day and did not smoke. It was surprisingly easy. By the second day I could start to feel the benefits in my lungs and it was easy after that. After 3 or 4 days I had a tremendous feeling of elation that I had finally beaten (or at least tricked) the sneaky persistent ‘nicotine devil’ in my brain and was free of smoking!

    • Spazmelda

      I think we are beginning to realize that the chemical basis for cigarette addiction is complex and varies from person to person. There is some evidence that MAOI’s in Cigarette smoke act synergistically with the nicotine to increase addiction. There may be other chemicals as well that contribute. Some people do find the switch to e-cigs to be easy and immediate, other struggle and make the switch much more slowly (or abandon the idea and go back to smoking). There are some e-cig liquids that contain WTA’s (whole tobacco alkaloids), which some people find to be more satisfying than the liquids that just contain nicotine. Slow switchers (dual users who will eventually end up quitting) often find that cigarettes start to taste nastier and nastier and slowly reduce their consumption until they are entirely quit.

      A good vaporizer can make a big difference. Using liquids with WTA’s helps some people. Another option would be to supplement ecigarette use with Snus or (non Pharma) lozenges if you could find one that didn’t contain aspertame.

      Personally, I was one of the lucky ones that was able to quit immediately. After two days of getting my first kit, I never smoked another cigarette (this was August of 2011). I did quickly upgrade my kit to something better, but I could tell from that first kit that it had the potential to work long term. I just had to find the right setup and liquids. Now, I did go through a bit of a mild depression about 1 month in, and it lasted a few months. I didn’t really notice it much, but my husband did and asked often if I was okay. I’m guessing that this was because of the other chemicals in cigarette smoke that I was no longer getting. It did pass and I got back to normal. I did not know of snus at the time, but I often wonder if that would have alleviated the blues a little bit if I had used it along with the ecigs. So, if it is true that lack of some unidentified chemicals in cigarette smoke caused me to become a bit depressed, I can easily see how the lack would affect other people more strongly (based on natural individual differences in physiology and brain chemistry).

      My big point, I guess, is don’t discard the idea of ecigs based on one disappointing experience. You may never try them again, and that’s okay. It is your body and your choice. I’d just encourage you to give it another try sometime in the future. If you do, seek out the advice and help of an experienced vaper and be aware that for some people it is not a magic potion. Also be aware that ecigs sort of change the paradigm of quitting. With NRTs you are supposed to completely quit, as slipping up and having a cigarette ‘ruins your quit’. With ecigs, this does not appear to be the case as many people successfully transition over long periods of time. It’s a different way of looking at quitting.

    • thedesigntailor

      I have seen lots of compelling evidence that nicotine is not that addictive in itself. But the combination of nic and other chemicals in cigarettes that get us hooked.

      That said I gave up tobacco by pure accident – bought an early ecig and enjoyed it so much I never bothered with lit tobacco again.

      I agree it’s different for everyone, and didn’t work for you however it is the most effective alternative for millions.

    • Tom Gleeson

      This is something vapers are aware of. Cigarettes deliver more than just nicotine, merely replacing nic isn’t enough, for most the behavioural aspects are enough with the nicotine to satisfy. Their are some however who crave more, whole tobacco alkaloids may be the missing piece.
      At this stage few manufactures tires are willing to risk adding another ingredient that will add ammunition to the opposition. We may have to wait for sometime before it happens.
      The problem is W.T.A. will make the ecig as addictive as it’s traditional counterpart.

  • Ryan Rji Rji

    The problem is the theatrics against tobacco perpetrated by the pharmautical industry. They’re in control of the FDA and play ping ping with people’s lives & wallets peddling ineffective ‘approved’ cessation products that are designed to fail, so that people continue to smoke, then try to quit again, and over and over again. Where do you suppose smokers get their meds from once they get ill? Pharma has nothing to gain by people successfully quitting smoking, THEY PROFIT FROM ILLNESS, NOT HEALTH, and they’re the ones that call the shots. They have to keep up their PR, so they pretend to be fighting their business allies (big tobacco) for max profit. I think this is pretty undeniable at this point.

  • WFB56

    Long winded and self-righteous, a perfect exemplar of WHO and why it is such an abject failure on the important issues of the day, Ebola, famine and the risk of pandemics.
    It must be a slow week at the Spectator that causes you to publish this sort of material.
    For the trolls, I don’t smoke, I’ve never smoked and no one in my family smokes but that’s not really the point.

    • Liam Bryan

      But his points are diametrically opposed to the WHO position on ecigs, see for instance I for one found the article eminently reasonable! Ecigs are vilified by many in Public Health (see for example yesterdays decision by all but one of the Scottish Hospital Boards to ban their use on their grounds) without evidence, good to see someone taking a dispassionate look at the subject.

    • Tom Gleeson

      Ahem but smoking was really the point of the article, which you obviously didn’t read.

      • WFB56

        No, being sanctimonious and telling other people what to do was the point of the article.
        Your moniker makes it clear that you don’t bring an open mind to this discussion.

        • VapeMeStoopid

          Oh you mean like people telling us that we shouldn’t smoke drink do drugs have sex eat too much sugar or salt and definitely stay away from the nicotine like substance in coffee and soda? Yeah. Thought so.

        • Tom Gleeson

          What? The point was smoking kills, vaping can reduce this toll and wondering why the opposition to them is so strong! You didn’t read it did you?

  • Edward Harkins

    Inverted (maybe distorted) and amoral logic here? Headline would have been more properly (if still contestably ) worded; “E cigarettes kill not so many lives as others”. The byline could maybe have been “But still smelly, irritating and plain bad manners in public places.”

    • Tom Gleeson

      Evidence of any kind that their is a likelihood of mortality from vaping! I didn’t think so. Good job you don’t write articles because making stuff up is not the job description. Oh and if you don’t like cigs then don’t use them and keep away from thoes who do.

      • Edward Harkins

        Ah the cool logic and tolerate nature of the vapers lobby. And again that inverted logic – its the use of cigerettes that is the offensive pollutant and anti-social behaviour in public places – not the non-users.

        • Tom Gleeson

          Because only the non user is virtuous! Public space, theirs a clue in the name, it’s public, if you don’t like being in public, stay at home! I have to tolerate over perfumed people, unwashed people, loud people and all kinds of people I find offensive. I celebrate them and enjoy mingling without the need to impose my standards on them.
          And still no evidence of harm so I can assume you are pleading for the world to be run to your specifications! Good luck with that.

        • VapeMeStoopid

          Well its great that I am not a user of cigarettes then 🙂

    • VapeMeStoopid

      Please provide evidence that ecigs have been directly related to any fatality? You can’t? Oh that’s right because ecigs havent killed anyone.

      Smelly? What about the cologne you wear or the shampoo you wash your hair with? I find those smells much more pungent than anything emitted from an ecig. When I was a smoker I couldn’t smell the women that bathed in Chanel; now? When they walk past, I feel physically ill, but does that give me a right to tell them they are smelly irritating or just being plain ole rude?


      • Penny

        On the “smelly” note. I’m not a smoker but have never found it acceptable to be rude about others based on the obvious fact that I can’t be sure I’m the very epitome of virtue myself.

        This uncertainty came about years ago, thanks to two non-smoking colleagues who were incredibly rude to, and about, smokers, not shy of telling them to their faces that they smelled like old ashtrays. What these two were not aware of was that one of them did need to address the deodorant she was (or wasn’t!) using; while the other had a number of animals in her home whose scent was not pleasant and whose hair was invariably on her clothes. She would probably have also benefited from using a mouthwash.

        No one was every rude enough to point these things out to my colleagues and so they quite possibly still have these issues. No doubt they’re still finger-wagging at smokers, too!

    • Dick_Puddlecote

      When you find your first e-cig fatality, come back to us. We’ll talk again in 2138.

      • VapeMeStoopid

        I love you today Mr. Puddlecote 🙂 This comment is brilliant!

  • Frankie and Benny

    What kills more than any other substance is oxygen, an unavoidable environmental toxin.

    Should we ban this too?

    • Aberrant_Apostrophe

      I think you’ll find that water kills far more people than does excessive levels of oxygen.

      • thedesigntailor

        Techincally getting old is our bodies oxidizing. So the oxygen that keeps us alive also slowly posions us.*

        Dihydrogen monoxide is a big killer too of course 😛

        *as told to me by a scientist – I haven’t got a clue about this myself

  • Norbert Zillatron

    Very nice article.

    But I’m afraid you’ve also fallen into a very common trap: Regarding ecigs as just another form of NRT, maybe more efficacy. This narrow association is what detered me from trying ecigs when I first heard about them: I didn’t want to quit!
    That suggestion led me to the erroneous conclusion that they are probably just as useless, expensive, and vile as other NRT gimmicks I had tried–more out of curiosity (and once neccessity) than to quit.

    Ecigs are just an alternative consumer product. Since they can provide more pleasure than tobacco for many vapers, quitting smoking is a side effect here.

    • Norbert Zillatron

      I elaborate on this in my blog: Vaping vs NRT


        Nice article. Just share it on our twitter and facebook pages. Our fans will surely find it interesting like did.

    • stevechelt

      I also didn’t want to quit but knew I had to as the hit on my health from smoking could no longer be ignored. Ecigs satisfy my nicotine craving, which I can now see was the obviously the reason I continued smoking for so long. I had also tried other forms of NRT which as you say are either useless or vile, or both at the same time as with the inhalator I tried. Ecigs are vastly more effective than ‘official’ NRT products, I can say this from my experience and that of many others I personally know who have switched.

    • bakerb

      Yep ! Why oh why do people always have to bang on about cessation. IMHO vaping is mainly for people who really enjoyed smoking, but were honest with themselves about its health effect and upgraded/switched to vaping to enjoy it all over again albeit with exponentially less potential harm

      • Norbert Zillatron

        Actually, for me it wasn’t health considerations in the first place. Just plain and simple curiosity and the discovery that ecigs can be much more enjoyable than smoking.

        • bakerb

          Big factor for me is smoking is exhorbitantly expensive over here in Australia, the land of the regressive exploitative excessive tobacco tax. Even 4 years ago when i switched.

          • Gwangi

            I think the UK is more expensive! When I quite smoking in 2006 it was over £5 a pack. Now I believe it’s £9?

          • VapeMeStoopid

            closer to 6 for the cheapest junk

  • stevechelt

    A good article. I stopped smoking and switched to vaping 2 years and 3 months ago after 20+ a day habit over 35 years, it took me one day to switch. Within a few days of switching my lungs felt renewed, then over the next few weeks my sense of smell and taste improved noticeably, also I love knowing that I no longer smell like an ashtray to non-smokers, they now smell like one to me! Since switching I’ve cut my nicotine level to 50 percent of what I started on (easy to do with different strength fluid) and use the ecig far less, going hours without even touching it, without any withdrawal cravings. To me it seems an extremely effective way to give up smoking, and even give up nicotine should you wish to do so, if taken at your own pace.

    One reason I decided to try an ecig was that at 54 years of age I was finding that I was suffering from 2 or 3 bad colds each winter, with one of them usually turning into a chest infection causing time off work. Also I could not deny I had a ‘smoker’s cough’ in the mornings, and often when going to bed. The morning & evening coughs disappeared within days of switching and since then, over almost 3 winters I have only had 3 mild colds, which have cleared very quickly and not lead to any chest infections. I genuinely feel far better now than I did several years ago. On my last visit to my family doctor a few weeks ago (for an unrelated issue) I mentioned I had switched to ecigs. He congratulated me and admitted it appeared to be a very effective way to give up smoking from his experience of other patients, and had reduced the number of visits from ex-smokers who used to be regular winter visitors.

    This is a massive golden opportunity to help smokers quit tobacco and I find it astonishing that the chance is not being grasped with both hands by the anti-smoking lobby. So much so that I am convinced they are doing all they can to protect their revenue streams – pharma companies make a fortune from poor (or even dangerous as in champix and zyban) give-up aids, the government here in the UK take 10billion+ in duty and VAT on tobacco sales and the tobacco companies of course stand to see their sales decimated. All these three are very powerful, well funded and experienced lobbyists, to see why they are so against ecigs you really just need to ‘follow the money’.


      It is a great story. is going to share it on its social media pages. Thanks for sharing it. You are a private user. It would be nice if we can share your stories in public.

    • kellie

      Great story, Steve. Thanks for sharing it here.
      I’m not a smoker but I need to improve my health in other ways & I found your story inspiring.

    • Ken

      Great story, Steve! In option for quit smoking, I started vaping no long ago with Elektrische Zigarette , a high quality professional e-cigarette, that has liquids in different flavors and strengths.

  • Norbert Zillatron
  • Ivan Ewan

    Almost right, Spectator, about the government.

    Not only do tobacco sales provide billions in tax, but they also kill off millions of OAPs, saving a vast fortune in social security.

    Yes Minister might have been a comedy, but it was a sharp-sighted one.

    • stevechelt

      Yes, the savings in pension payments must be very considerable, as is the extra profit to the pharma companies supplying drugs to treat smoking related diseases after their expensive cessation aids fail to work. The cost to the NHS of treating smoking related illnesses of course being more than covered by the duty and VAT on tobacco.

  • Flitting – A Beautiful Choice

    An excellent article! How refreshing to have the case for e-cigs so clearly laid out here by Derek Yach. It should be required reading for all e-cig policy makers, many of whom still fail to grasp the simple reality that smoking kills and nicotine does not. His insights can also help legitimise tobacco harm reduction as a strategy, in preference to the conventional approach that he quietly discredits. At long last!

  • Roger Hall

    It should also be noted that the Tobacco companies are actually a minority in terms of ecig companies. They came to the party late, however they are highly instrumental in influencing policy makers with regulatory hurdles that effectively wipe out or unfairly restrict the ecig companies that aren’t as financially powerful. If Tobacco control really didn’t trust big T then handing the ecig industry to them on a plate via regulatory hurdles is a strange way to act. I suspect that policy makers and Govts realise that ecigs are here to stay and ever mindful of the tax revenues generated from tobacco use know that Big T have already got the procedures in place to do this for them and all it requires is Govts and policy makers to effectively ensure that Big T have control of ecigs. If you decimate the independent non Big T ecig companies and you have quid pro quo namely ecig control in return for agreeing to ecig taxation – for a product it should be noted is not smoking and has no tobacco.

  • JLTrader

    WHO and anti-smoking activists’ lies make Big Tobacco look like kindergarten children in comparison. They’ve become so entrenched in their lies and propaganda that they apply the same pattern of deception to ecigs that they’ve been applying to smoking for 50+ years, even though they’re 2 completely different, albeit similar looking, things.
    The author of this article says that ‘Unsupported statements are accepted as truth by policymakers and are used as the basis for stringent regulation of e-cigs in many
    jurisdictions.’ Here’s a newsflash for you: it’s been the same for smoking all along. Can you support for instance the statement that 80k deaths per year are caused by smoking in the UK ? Show the public just 10 death certificates of those 80 thousand and prove that smoking was the ’cause’ of death.

  • Ahobz

    Goodness, reason in the smoking/vaping debate. Would you beleive it?

    What this article barely touches on is the multiple conflicts of interest between governments that want the tobacco revenue, but not the tobacco related health costs; the anti-smoking lobby (including the WHO) that is now well entrenched in the establishment and which would cease to have a function if all smokers quit tomorrow; and the pharma that supplies smoke-quitting aids and would lose a market if all quit tomorrow.

    • Lee Ballard

      Don’t forget tobacco companies. I am confident that it will soon be clear that ecigs are dramatically more effective smoking cessation tools than any other. You don’t need tobacco to make nicotine liquid. And studies suggest ecigs are easier to quit, on a par with NRTs.

      • VapeMeStoopid

        Better than NRT 🙂 if you listen to “anecdotal evidence”

      • aikanae

        NRT’s were designed to make smokers switch to an alternative delivery system for life. Most users continue using indefinatley and at a much higher cost.

  • charlie

    E-cigs only need defending because politicians don’t like them. Governments should treat the devices as consumer products and the liquids about the same as food products. There is no justification for going beyond that.

    If there is a significant health threat we should be reading reports of doctors treatig patients with illnesses caused by using e-cigs If kids are smoking because of e-cigs why isn’t their rate of smoking increasing?

    Cigarettes are over priced and obsolete.

    • Tom Gleeson

      Maybe not like food products, more like beer or wine, in fact the similarities are many. An adult product with many producers. No need for overburdened medical regulation or over restrictive tobacco regs. Their is already a template in the off licence regs which would transferring well to vapor product retail. Manufacturing of liquids would fit good manufacturing regs as I food, and hardware is already covered by consumer and electronic regs.
      No real reason apart from an effort to strangle the sector at birth for all the effort in producing new or inappropriate regulations.

  • VapeMeStoopid

    One other note, Ecigarettes are not dominated by Big Tobacco in the industry, the last I checked they owned on 7 of the some 500+ brands available. Their 7 produce mostly cigalikes and early 2nd generation (from 2-3 years ago) and not the current 2nd or 3rd generation ecigs that are far superior and work better.

    • Spazmelda

      This deserves emphasis. A casual reader, not familiar with the issue, might take from the article that tobacco companies are the major players in the ecig industry. They are not. They are relative latecomers, and only entered the ecig market in 2012. I have purchased and used some 10-15 different vaporizers over the last 4 years, and not one of the was made by a tobacco company.

      • VapeMeStoopid

        In the 3 years that I have been vaping I have used NJOY, Vype and E-Lites but all were sent to me for free and before E-Lites was bought out by Japan. I only used/reviewed them because I wanted to see if they could compete with my current set up at the time. They didn’t and were chucked out.

        I have never bought a tobacco owned ecig brand.

    • Oliver Kershaw

      I agree that the article’s emphasis would lead the casual reader to believe that the Tobacco Industry to be wholly dominant in the sector. This is not true, of course, although they are a significant player, and it’s their involvement that has caused a massive overreaction by anti-tobacco activists.

      A particular irony is that it is precisely this reaction that has made the industry far more vulnerable to a tobacco takover, both through high regulatory barriers to entry and through sin-tax level taxation.

  • Monika Poord
  • Retired Nurse

    Liquid nicotine killed this child… .. mandatory child proof containers for nicotine in the UK? No.

    • OfJamaicensis

      If I had children or animals to worry about I would not put my faith in child proof containers. Put all drugs, cleaning liquids and e-juice out of reach.

    • Oliver Kershaw

      Two children died and 5 suffered life-changing injuries from swallowing watch batteries last year in the Greater Manchester area:

      Absolutely parents must keep eliquid out of the reach of children. And perhaps the industry should be doing more to warn them about the risk. I would invite you to read the wiki page on “child resistant” packaging, noting: The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission has stated in a press release that “There is no such thing as child-proof packaging. So you shouldn’t think of packaging as your primary line of defense. Rather, you should think of packaging, even child-resistant packaging, as your last line of defense.”

      However, this has nothing to do with the substance of what Derek wrote, and without wishing to directly implicate you in this, is sadly symptomatic of the general fear-mongering against e-cigarettes which has lead to fewer smokers migrating.

      • thedesigntailor

        Interesting and really well put.

        It should also be noted that ECITA, the ecig trade body in the UK, recommend child safety lids and raise triangles. I’ve not seen a UK vendor not using safety caps. And only the rarest selling to under 18’s.

        The industry is regulating itself really quite well.

      • VapeMeStoopid

        I don’t know a vaper yet that doesn’t support child proof caps or keeping this stuff out of reach of kids 🙂 and like you said Oliver, there is NO such thing as CP packaging. I have three boys, they’ve gotten into EVEYTHING.

        We had a medical emergency back in the mid 2000’s when my toddler ate prescription medication that looked and tasted like little smartie candies. They were in the US medicine containers with CP caps and at 18 months old he still managed to get into them. Go figure.

    • Judith Walters

      There is no coroner’s report yet regarding the child’s death. Last year it was reported that a man in Borneo was killed by an exploding e-cigarette. Turns out he was shot by someone walking past. I will believe the child died from nicotine when there is proof.

      • VapeMeStoopid

        Yep! I replied to another comment above…
        “The little boy in the United States?

        According to a police officer there he drank “100 Proof” eliquid in a “corked bottle” There is NO manufacturer of eliquid or nicotine that makes “100 Proof” eliquid in a corked bottle. Not a single one. So whatever did kill this little boy, did not come from a known eliquid or nicotine source in the vape community. IF it were nicotine in a corked bottle, it is more likely agricultural nicotine, which is something we simply do NOT use in conjunction with vaping. 100 Proof is not even the correct term for 99.9% pure nicotine.

        Lawyers among the US vape associations are monitoring the development of the story and as of right now, the toxicology reports have not been completed or released. There has also been NO follow up story and no one has been able to actually CONFIRM (the coroner / Medical Examiner) that this was liquid nicotine.

        Until then, don’t believe everything you read. Most of it is tosh.”

    • VapeMeStoopid

      The little boy in the United States?

      According to a police officer there he drank “100 Proof” eliquid in a “corked bottle” There is NO manufacturer of eliquid or nicotine that makes “100 Proof” eliquid in a corked bottle. Not a single one. So whatever did kill this little boy, did not come from a known eliquid or nicotine source in the vape community. IF it were nicotine in a corked bottle, it is more likely agricultural nicotine, which is something we simply do NOT use in conjunction with vaping. 100 Proof is not even the correct term for 99.9% pure nicotine.

      Lawyers among the US vape associations are monitoring the development of the story and as of right now, the toxicology reports have not been completed or released. There has also been NO follow up story and no one has been able to actually CONFIRM (the coroner / Medical Examiner) that this was liquid nicotine.

      Until then, don’t believe everything you read. Most of it is tosh.

  • bakerb

    And yet our public health ‘heroes’ ignore or take the p!ss out of these kinds of articles even when written by somebody of their own ilk

    • VapeMeStoopid

      Simon Chapman is a disgusting vile little man who doesnt have the gonads big enough to debate ecigs with some one of this stature or expertise!

  • Deb Iten

    This is by far one of the best articles with research to back up every fact. If everyone against e-cigs would read this maybe they wouldn’t be so judgmental and understand that ecigs/vaping are saving livesß

  • Skip Murray

    Excellent article.

  • Bruce Nye

    Thank you Derek, simply, thank you.
    Someone with your experience, time in the trenches, and wisdom gained from both coming forward and putting your thoughts on record means a lot to those of us who are fighting against the prejudicial, hysterical, and fanatical efforts of those who oppose vapor products.

  • Rain Man


  • Gwangi

    ‘Smoking Kills’? No it doesn’t. That is a soundbite from adland, nothing more.
    Fact: smoking increases the risk of certain diseases in certain people. Many who smoke will live long lives, as is evidenced by surviving First World War soldiers who died aged 110 being smokers.
    Me, I quite smoking in December 2006 after 21 years. Why? 1) the cost (and I spent the money on something I could see – antiques – instead; my collection is now worth £15000+); 2) fed up with it – esp as I was smoking smelly roll-ups because of the high cost of packets (and as I no longer went to pubs and clubs I was mostly just smoking at home).
    I had flu and was in bed for 3 days, and just didn’t start again. Put on 2 stone eating chips of course…
    I loved smoking when I smoked; and now I don’t smoke I love that too. And unlike many ex-smokers I am no anti-smoking fascist and see 1) the risks of passive smoking are just not there, except for children at home – a 40 year study from UCLA shows this clearly; 2) smoking does not ‘kill’ at all – merely increases risk of disease, as does eating a diet of processed food, being obese etc.

    Our society is becoming very puritanical these days and I hate it – what will the finger of the state wagging at any behaviour enjoyed by minority groups (and smokers are a minority groups constantly bullied by smug self-righteous non-smokers who cost the nation far more in child benefit and maternity pay costs after all; smokers are net contributors to the health service). Our police force seems dedicated to becoming a version of Saudi Arabia’s ‘vice and virtue’ police, and seem more concerned with being thought/language police and arresting people for stating opinions and saying rude word and having petty squabbles on social media, than in dealing with any real crimes. TV/media has become utterly feminised and promotes the religion of dug-feeding in public as resolutely as any jihadi promotes their Sharia habits. Maybe I’ll move to France and draw cartoons…

    • kellie

      Hi, Gwangi. Are you talking about the 2003 study addressed here?

      “The study was funded in part by the Center for Indoor Air Research, which the American Cancer Society says is an arm of Philip Morris and other tobacco companies.”

      & a comment from the head of epidemiological research for the ACS:
      “While this study is flawed, there are at least 50 very reputable studies that find a link between secondhand smoke and lung cancer and at least 50 others that find an increased risk of heart disease.”

      • Karyyl

        The only SHS studies that stand up to scrutiny show lung disease risks ONLY, and only for family members who live with smokers who smoke indoors. CERTAINLY not for people that catch a whiff as a bystander, though that can trigger an asthma attack in someone already sensitized.

  • TheDane

    What a bunch of crap. Another way of squeezing the money out of your pocket.
    Whoever believes that serving nicotine breaks the addiction to nicotine is missing something….The moment i realized that what i am doing lighting a cigarette is not killing the craving for the nicotine but creating the new, even stronger one for the future, i stopped smoking. The only way to get out of spell….

    • Judith Walters

      I’m glad that you gave up smoking but sad that you did it the hard way. After smoking for 50 years and smoking over 50 a day I started vaping on 36mg nicotine and dropped it slowly to 18mg over four months. I am about to start vaping 12mg after almost six months tobacco free and I expect to keeping dropping the strength of the nicotine I vape. I was in the first stages of COPD and can breath freely again now and so I can exercise. My lungs are still cleaning themselves from the collection of 50 years of tar. I gave up smoking for almost three months once and I would say that the health benefits were equal to vaping for the same period. It is certainly not “a bunch of crap”.

  • Bill Godshall

    In sharp contrast to the many false and misleading fear mongering claims about vapor products by Big Pharma and the disease treatment industry (that made $170 billion in 2010 treating sick and dying smokers in the US), the scientific and empirical evidence has consistently found that e-cigarettes (aka vapor products):

    – are 99% (+/-1%) less hazardous than cigarettes,
    – have never been known to cause any disease,
    – are virtually all (i.e. >99%) consumed by smokers and by exsmokers who switched to vaping,
    – have replaced more than 3 Billion packs of cigarettes worldwide in the past
    five years,
    – have helped several million smokers quit smoking, and have helped several
    million more sharply reduce their cigarette consumption,
    – are more effective for smoking cessation than FDA/MHRA approved nicotine gums, lozenges and patches (which have a 95% failure rate),
    – pose fewer risks than FDA/MHRA approved Verenicline (Chantix),
    – have never been found to create nicotine dependence in any nonsmoker (youth or adult),
    – have never been found to be a gateway to cigarette smoking for anyone,
    – emit trace levels of nontoxic aerosol that poses no harm to nonusers,
    – have further denormalized cigarette smoking (as youth and adult smoking rates and cigarette consumption have declined every year since 2007 when vapor sales began to skyrocket).

    Further, all of the following things emit significantly more indoor air pollution than does vaping, but the hypocritical e-cig prohibitionists are trying to ban any of them.
    – every exhale by every smoker for more than an hour after smoking every cigarette,
    – smoker’s clothes and hair,
    – cooking,
    – plywood and other building materials,
    – glues and paint,
    – carpeting and most furniture,
    – printers and photocopiers,
    – household cleaning products,
    – dry cleaned clothes,
    – hair sprays, perfumes, nail polish and remover,
    – air fresheners, and even
    – a cup of coffee or tea.

    Yes, every cup of coffee and every cup of tea not only contain, but emit far greater levels of so-called carcinogens and toxins that does an e-cig.

    Vapers and smokers have a human right to be truthfully informed that vaping is far less hazardous than smoking, and to have legal and affordable access to these life saving products.

    Consistently, public health and health care officials, agencies, researchers, professionals and educators have an ethical duty to truthfully inform vapers and smokers that vaping is far less hazardous than smoking, and to ensure that vapor products remain legal and affordable.

    Unfortunately, WHO, US FDA, UK MHRA and many other public health agencies have been comitting public health malpractice for the past 6 years by knowingly and intentionally deceiving smokers and vapers (and the public) about vaping
    and trying to ban the lifesaving products (which protects cigarette markets and cigarette industry profits).

    Bill Godshall

    Executive Director
    Smokefree Pennsylvania
    1926 Monongahela Avenue
    Pittsburgh, PA 15218

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  • john Walker

    The number of people in the world who still smoke is, in absolute terms, very large (despite all the efforts of health authorities). Smoking kills about 50% of smokers. E-gigs a likely to be (at least) 98% safer than smoking. If a million hardcore smokers switch to e-cigs that would be a ,huge reduction in preventable deaths .
    (and these devices have been in use for more than 10 years, evidence of harm has not been forth coming )
    Really do not understand the Health Authorities ‘thinking’.

  • WorldGoneMad

    It’s truely refreshing to hear someone discuss this with such clarity and professionalism, i myself a smoker of 15 years now in my late 20s and suffering bad effects of smoking 50-60per day, that is addiction, i keep trying and wanting to switch to ecigs because they do work 100% many family members nearly a half a century in smoking have quit and completely renewed in life, healthier and happier with no apparant side effects from the ecigs, but i myself keep getting put of making a full switch with all the mass media negativity about them, the negative is certainly not based on fact that’s for sure, and the witch-hunt against smokers makes some people like myself defiant and want to keep on smoking just out of rebellion (it’s a human thing) but when i see a anti-smoking campaigner such as this author actually make sounds that they do care and its not just about the money, and they suggest the possibility of endorsing ecigs for the greater good compared to the vile guaranteed dimise to people of actual tobacco, it’s lovely to see, and gives me hope that there is some genuine people out there not deluded by the corporate greed, and actually want to make a differnce, for that, i salute you!

  • Teresa Clayton

    awesome article… I have stopped smoking after smoking for almost 40 yrs…. I now vape, started in 2008 in the first few months I did both smoking and vaping, but then quit smoking completely, I use to get laryngitis every year like clock work, since I quit I have not been sick or had laryngitis….. I dont smell like an ashtray anymore, I can run and not be out of breath. my taste buds are back and foods taste better, I can smell things better… and smelling a person who just smoked is sickening and I think to myself wow I use to smell like that….

  • Electronic Cigarettes

    Great article post on electronic cigarettes, Smoking is a bad habit, as well as harmful for the life. The electronic cigarette is a good alternative over regular tobacco cigarettes. I’m not a smoker, but I know e- cigarettes save lives.

  • bakerb

    “Also, as snus use has increased, smoking has decreased” .. interesting this is exactly what is happening in US with ecigs.

  • DrMA

    It’s rare to see such clarity and common sense in ecig and tobacco discourse. Thanks Spectator & Dr Yach.

    As far as follow the money, I’ll just leave you with this: How much money do various entities make from continued large-scale smoking? Let’s take US for example

    – Big Pharma and so-called “health” care industry: $170B
    – US Federal Government: $63B in tobacco tax + TMSA payments (not including State & Local tobacco revenue)
    – Tobacco Industry: $8B

    This unholy trinity is now fighting a war against the #vaping cure for smoking to protect the tobacco gravy train, but it’s clear which entities stand to lose most when ecigs finally eliminate smoking.

  • Thomas

    The point you`re missing is where the tobacco industry still follows their own interest. Mini ecigs and disposables as recently mass produced by the tobacco industry are not only way far overpriced, they have by far not the effect that “good” ecigs have. They cost more than smoking and the success rate of heavy smokers quitting smoking with them remains below 5%, meaning we end up with over 95% of users returning to smoking another 2-3% dual users and only 2% who completely switch to vaping or quit entirely. The upcoming regulations as suggested by the WHO as well as last year passed in the EU parlament favors precisely these minis, in fact they want to ban all devices that have a lower price and/or a higher success rate.

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  • Mike Vape

    A great article and more positive news to those who vape. I really recommend checking out if you are finding it hard to locate a vape shop in your area, they have loads of suppliers listed and some really good advice in their blog section. There are many discussion forums to get you started. It seems more and more news is coming out daily stating that vaping is much healthier than smoking cigarettes and it has proven highly successful with many of my friends and family.

  • Martino

    I think that the issue is not just Tobacco Industry. Pharma industry is lobbying to get e-cigarettes banned / restricted / highly taxed. They want people to stop smoking to use patches, pills and gums. I might even go as far as saying that if people smoke Cigarettes, the Pharma industry is selling more medicaments and treatment. I suspect the WHO is relying on researches funded by large companies in the Pharma spectrum to make their decision and unfortunately this is cornering the vaping industry. I use Vaping instead of e-cigarette industry because the two are completely different (although the product is basically the same). E-cigarettes are in the hands of big tobacco companies, vaping is not. I think this is an important point to be made,

  • daws

    Why would anyone just exploring smoking tobacco start by making a $60-$100 investment in an e-cig vs. a $6 pack? Director Tom Frieden has to be being disingenuous here.

  • MrMiran

    My wife and I both quit smoking thanks to e-cigs despite previous failed attempts. I smoked for over twenty years and she smoked for over ten. Five months later my wife quit vaping, but I still do. I’ve always said that I enjoyed smoking and I didn’t plan on quitting. I was, however, starting to wheeze at night after that last cigarette before bed. E-cigs showed up just in time for us! I haven’t had a cigarette since 8/10/11 and have no desire to start up again. I don’t wheeze anymore either.

    That being said, big tobacco was our enemy in the early days of vaping. They were pushing for bans and regulations that would stifle their new competition. Eventually they realized the trend was going to leave them in the dust as cigarettes became obsolete. Only then did they start buying e-cig manufacturers and start bringing their own e-cigs to market.

    Yet even now “Big Tobacco” is no friend of vaping. They push for regulations prohibiting the sale of e-liquids over the Internet (where most is sold) and to lobby for the exclusive use of e-cigs that use prefilled cartridges. This would force customers to buy expensive (and nasty tasting) prefilled cartridges they could not refill with inexpensive liquids in the flavors they like. Yeah, that’s not going to work well. I would probably go back to cigarettes.

    The bigger enemy now is “Big Pharma,” as the pharmaceutical companies sales of nicotine gums, patches, and inhalers continue to decline. Ironically they will bad-mouth e-cigs all the while selling nicotine inhalers that are very, very similar to them… only they taste terrible and do not deliver enough nicotine to stifle those cravings all of us smokers and former smokers know so well.

    In closing, I would like to say that the free market has served vaping well. It has been very innovative and brought amazing new products to market regularly. Vaping has gotten cheaper, safer, and more effective, yet the government wants to regulate it to death. Health and safety issues have been dealt with rapidly by the industry without government meddling. I fear this continued improvement would come to a halt because once regulations are imposed they would freeze technology in its tracks. Largely because they would first say that “this” is the definition of an e-cig and anything that wasn’t “this” would be banned. In short… Just leave us alone to sort it out. We vapers have done just fine, no thanks to attempts by government to kill us by removing our safer alternative to tobacco. Thanks so much for your time… and thanks for fighting big tobacco companies. Just remember… vaping is NOT smoking.

  • Dennis P. George

    ‘The perfect is the enemy of the good.’
    Are E-Cigs perfect? Of course not!
    However, compared to conventional cigarettes, they offer a vast improvement.

  • Maddie Reeze

    ecigs really does save lives. maybe it’s true the these are not totally healthy but it help smokers lessen their craving to cigarettes

  • Leon

    Electronic cigarettes help people to quit smoking
    and it is a healthier alternative to smoking and Ecig juice used in electronic
    cigarette is safer then tobacco used in normal cigarette.

  • SloopJB

    Not sure how old this article is, but a couple of months ago scientists were able to show that nicotine itself is also a carcinogen.
    Not as strongly as tar I expect, but nevertheless a problem for the younger smokers. It’s also addictive of course but that’s another story.

    • Justin L. Franks

      No, they have not. There is some evidence that nicotine can inhibit programmed cell death with certain kinds of cancer (potentially leading to increased tumor growth), but there is not sufficient evidence that nicotine is a carcinogen (that it actually *causes* cancer).

  • Rachel P. Nida

    E-cigarettes stimulate the physical and psychological act of smoking while eliminating most of the harmful chemicals and smoke found in conventional cigarettes.


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