Professor John Britton from The Royal College of Physicians said: “If all the smokers in Britain stopped smoking cigarettes and started using e-cigarettes we would save five million deaths in people who are alive today. It’s a massive potential public health prize.”
Yet Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust are to introduce a blanket ban on the use of e-cigarettes in its buildings and grounds. This ban will involve the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital and Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton, and the Hurstwood Park Neurosciences Centre.
The NHS Trust has decided to ban e-cigarettes because they look too much like tobacco cigarettes and may “confuse” people. Yes, a minority of e-cigarettes do look like tobacco cigarettes but, according to research produced by the University of East London 72 per cent of e-cigarette users use products that are as about as far removed from looking like conventional tobacco cigarettes as possible. There are literally thousands of products on the market at present, (about 5,000 in the UK alone)
This decision to ban is sadly typical of the thinking of so many people who appear hostile to e-cigarettes. They don’t know very much about them and show very little interest in finding out more. They do not realise that, in terms of products, the e-cigarette world is a fast moving place with new and improved products being released on an almost daily basis. It is sad therefore to see influential public bodies taking decisions like this based on out of date information and in some cases prejudice.
With a ban on the advertising and promotion of e-cigarettes soon to be introduced, following the passing of the TPD, where are smokers to find out about e-cigarettes, particularly if they are banned in public places? Smokers need to see people using e-cigarettes in public, they need to be able to go up and speak to e-cigarette users so that they can find out further information and then hopefully make the switch.
All those with a genuine interest in public health need to stay focussed on the bigger picture – significantly reducing the number of people who die from tobacco related illnesses. Conventional nicotine replacement therapies are not tackling this in any significant number, but e-cigarettes could. Already 1.3 million smokers have switched to e-cigarettes.
A recent poll by the BBC found that 75 per cent of the public would be happy if their friends or family switched from smoking tobacco cigarettes to using e-cigarettes, and 62 per cent of the public said that e-cigarettes should not be banned in public.
Sadly, far too many people who work in the public health arena and in our NHS seem more concerned with introducing counterproductive bans based on inaccurate information than they are about staying focussed on the bigger picture of seriously reducing the number of smoking related deaths.