Successful smoking cessation needs choice

As consumers, we often underestimate the great power at our own hands. Our day-to-day spending decisions have a profound effect on the economy. People know what is best for themselves more than anybody else. When Nokia, Blackberry, Kodak, and MySpace went bust, it was because consumers decided their products weren’t good enough anymore, not regulations or bans. Innovation and the choices plentifully offered by it changes the world more than any government agency. Sadly, this fact is often overlooked in policy discussions about smoking cessation. 

According to the WHO, more than 8 million people die every year from smoking. Yes, smoking kills nearly half of its consumers, which is unacceptable. However, most people cannot quit immediately. Quitting cigarettes is one of the hardest things to do. More than 9 out of 10 smokers fail to quit without any help. 

Therefore, allowing people to have a variety of quitting aids is the most efficient way to beat smoking. Consumers need to be able to choose what suits their needs best because people are unique, so one-size-fits-all solutions are rarely effective. 

It turns out that vaping is one of the most effective tools for smoking cessation. It allows smokers to replace the habit of smoking with a much less harmful one. Vaping is 95% less harmful than traditional cigarettes, and according to a Queen Mary’s University study, vaping is twice as effective for quitting smoking as nicotine replacement therapies.

Despite all the benefits of vaping, anti-vaping activists persuaded many policymakers and health organisations that vaping is as bad, if not worse, than smoking. In doing so, they single-handedly undermined the advantages that vaping brings to smoking cessation. The logical path for governments should be to prioritise resources to help smokers quit, such as vaping, thereby reducing the number of smokers. Instead, we see increasing attacks on vaping in many countries and from different international organisations. 

Especially, the denial of reality by the WHO seems to get even more absurd, and flavour bans are looming behind every corner. Last year, the WHO Study Group on Tobacco and Product Regulation published several recommendations offering a slew of options that have nothing to do with improving public health or helping people quit smoking. Amongst other things, they even proposed banning manually filled vaping devices, known as open systems.

This defies all logic, particularly as open systems give vapers the most choice about nicotine content, flavours, and the device itself. A vital element of the success of quitting smoking by vaping is precisely the fact that there are countless different models and variations of vaping devices and liquids. Banning open systems would mean the end of vaping for millions, and therefore, millions more smokers. Unfortunately, a recommendation like this shows that the expert committee does not even understand the basics of vaping and has not consulted experts and vapers on the matter. This must be entirely disregarded unless the goal is to push people back to smoking cigarettes. Another example of an attack on choice was the announcement by the EU Commission of a plan to ban the sale of all flavoured, heated tobacco products last month. The EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, also called for “stricter enforcement” for new products entering the market.

Instead of such bans, we need as many options as possible for people who want to quit smoking. All different forms of vaping, nicotine pouches, and heat-not-burn products help people quit smoking and are less harmful. Still, the WHO and the EU Commission purposefully ignore the wealth of scientific evidence pointing to the benefits, not to mention the first-hand experience of millions of vapers. By purposefully ignoring evidence and testimony, the Commission is creating a public health disaster.

Unfortunately, those two examples are only the tip of the iceberg. Many countries are trying to ban flavours or outright prohibit vaping. This must change – 8 million lives should be reason enough. Harm reduction policies should be based on scientific evidence and the freedom of choice for consumers. 

Last year, one hundred highly respected scientists and experts urged the WHO to “change its hostile stance on tobacco harm reduction”. Unfortunately, these experts are ignored. The same applies to consumers and the choices they make.

Originally published at Vaping Today.


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Vaping can save 200 million lives and flavours play a key role in helping smokers quit. However, policymakers want to limit or ban flavours, putting our effort to end smoking-related deaths in jeopardy.

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