The United Kingdom’s leading anti-smoking organization, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), has released a report detailing the use of vaping products in England, Scotland and Wales. The report is based on a survey of 13,000 adults and has been widely publicized in British media.
ASH reports that there has been a large increase in the number of people who vape in Great Britain, with 4.3 million current vapers in 2022, a 19.4 percent increase from 3.6 million in 2021. Further, more than half (2.4 million) of current e-cigarette users in the 2022 survey had switched entirely from combustible cigarettes to vaping.
Unlike the United States, the public health establishment in the United Kingdom is quite relaxed about adult e-cigarette use, and the report was greeted with enthusiasm by the anti-smoking group. ASH’s deputy chief executive, Hazel Cheeseman, is quoted as saying that the increase in smokers switching to vaping was “great news.” Even the reported rise in never smokers taking up vaping does not overly concern Cheeseman, who said that vaping among this group tended to be “rare” and “experimental.”
Furthermore, ASH revealed that fruit flavors are the most popular flavor used by U.K. adult vapers, with 41 percent of those surveyed using them. Menthol is next most popular at 19 percent. Interestingly, only 15 percent of respondents claimed tobacco as their main flavor of choice. E-cigarettes are available in a wide variety of flavors in the U.K. with little or no consternation from the government, government-funded health organizations, public health charities and non-government organizations. All recognize that flavors are important to vapers in distancing them from the taste of combustible tobacco.
In their press release, ASH declared that a “vaping revolution” had occurred over the past decade. This came quickly after an ASH briefing on youth vaping in the U.K., which was endorsed by several high-profile public health bodies and in collaboration with regulatory experts and academics. The briefing quashed media claims that youth vaping risks becoming a potential “public health catastrophe” leading to a “generation hooked on nicotine.”
All this is a far cry from the approach taken by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a plethora of U.S. public health groups. These organizations routinely exaggerate the potential harms of vaping and shriek about a “youth vaping epidemic” that has largely subsided.
The U.K. government subsidizes e-cigarettes, the National Health Service recommends them to smokers who cannot quit using other means, there is cross-party political support for vaping, and health charities endorse them. Vape shops can even be found in some hospitals.
In the United Kingdom, people who smoke have the choice of thousands of different vaping products, flavor choices and nicotine strengths, which are greatly succeeding in tempting many away from combustible tobacco and onto consuming nicotine in a far safer manner, as the latest ASH data show.
This is because manufacturers in Britain need only notify the regulatory body which vaping products they intend to market, ensure they are free of certain harmful ingredients, and ensure they are sold only to adult smokers to help them quit.
By contrast, the FDA is preventing the United States from enjoying a “vaping revolution” similar to that of the U.K. by only authorizing a handful of vaping products made by three companies, all of them only in tobacco flavor. This is in complete disregard to governments worldwide that recognize that vaping is at least 95 percent less harmful than smoking and that there have been no reported deaths from nicotine vaping use anywhere in the world since their introduction 20 years ago.
So why is the FDA taking such an over-precautionary approach to vaping, peddling dangerous misinformation at every opportunity? This has resulted in the United States essentially forgoing the huge public health benefits enjoyed by the British population thanks to its establishment’s embrace of harm reduction when it comes to nicotine use.
In light of what’s happening across the Atlantic, why should the American public be deprived of revolutionary reduced-risk nicotine products by the bureaucratic narrow-mindedness of the FDA, its embarrassing bungling of regulating the sector, and its craven capitulation to highly funded prohibitionist groups?
The American public is badly served by the FDA’s incompetence, while the U.K. is actively acknowledging and embracing tobacco harm reduction. Adults who smoke in America deserve better than a regulatory agency that has lost sight of its prime purpose — saving lives, not petty politics.