Since September 2012, I have not had a cigarette. A ‘real’ cigarette that is, and neither has Julie. I have written many posts and updates about using the electronic alternatives, known as ‘e-cigs’, or ‘vaping’. As a way of giving up actual smoking, this method has become incredibly successful, and current figures estimate well over one million regular users, in the UK alone. Even such luminaries as the head of the Cancer Research Foundation have been prepared to go public with their view that it is not dangerous, and should be encouraged as an alternative to cigarettes and tobacco. These devices contain a glycerol liquid, with nicotine added at varying strengths, chosen by the consumer. They do not address the problem of addiction to nicotine, and do not attempt to do so. What they offer, is a far better alternative to normal smoking, and one that is considerably healthier for the user, with no notable side effects for anyone nearby.
As a result, many establishments allow the use of these in public areas. Even though some may look like normal cigarettes, the coloured lights that glow when the mixture is heated by the battery, and the fact that they have no odour, make it clear to anyone who sees them being used, that it is not an actual cigarette. Some of the devices are made to look nothing like conventional cigarettes or pipes, making it even more obvious that tobacco is not present. I have written before about the way that these e-cigs have enabled me to stop smoking. As a heavy smoker for over forty years, I never once felt that it would be possible to give up; but I am proof that these things work, as are many other successful quitters.
Ideally, I should have weaned myself off them altogether by now, and not be using anything. For that, I have no answer. At the moment, I am happy to continue using them, as they provide all the ‘benefits’ of smoking, at much less cost, and do not pollute my home environment, as well as being a lot healthier of course. There has been a lot of recent publicity about government regulation of these products. By 2016, they will only be available in shops with pharmacy counters. They will be treated as a medicine, and regulated in the same way. There may well be some taxation, so that the government can recoup the lost revenue from tobacco taxes. No doubt the powerful tobacco companies lobby in parliament will try to make it a lot more difficult for us to switch to them, and kick themselves for missing the profit train that they can see.
Today, the Welsh Assembly announced that they would soon be introducing a ban on e-gigs of all kinds, in public places. This puts them into the same category as normal tobacco products, and adds the same restrictions. Their stated reason for this, is that seeing the smoking of these will make people want to smoke real tobacco, so it is in the interests of public safety. If this goes ahead, the rest of the UK will soon fall into line, and also bring in the ban. This will be another move to make it more difficult to switch from real smoking, to the electronic alternatives.
Given that leading health experts have gone on record as approving the use of e-cigs as a desirable alternative to the use of tobacco products, how can this make any sense? Is it not much more likely that the pressure of the tobacco companies, with their large employment and investments, is leading to this controversy and regulation? I am sure you can decide for yourselves.