Matt Culley, a renowned American vaping advocate on YouTube, compares his visits to England to entering ‘Twilight Zone,’ well, sort of. He usually visits the country for attending conferences, which he deems as a sort of “alternate reality.”
Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals in England have granted permission to a vape company to open stores in their property. The idea behind allowing this is to discourage people from smoking cigarettes outside.
Comparing this event to the vaping ban scene in America, Culley said, “Meanwhile, in the U.S., now you have people going to vape shops and telling the owners that they’re killing people.”
“It’s crazy,” he added.
While talking to VICE, experts pointed out while the U.K. is not impervious to health problems associated with nicotine, it isn’t as bad as it in America. It is worth noting that the vaping crisis in the U.S. has caused about 1,000 cases of lung illness, and nearly a couple of dozen deaths, which is not the case in the United Kingdom.
Furthermore, the official concern that vaping is luring otherwise uninterested youngsters into a perpetual nicotine addiction is comparatively less in the United Kingdom, where officials have come up with a step by step regulatory system that carefully monitors the levels of nicotine in vape products.
Brad Rodu, a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville and an expert in tobacco-addiction harm-reduction says, “I think the difference between the U.K. and the U.S. is due to the American propensity to turn health issues into moral crusades.”
Rodu deems the “bureaucratic mess” in acquiring funding for research in the U.S. as another big concern. “It appears that policymakers in the U.S. are either completely ignorant of the history of tobacco, or completely ignore it.”
With Montana becoming the latest state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, it looks like every state is now adopting a prohibitionist stance, while the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is considering whether or not to federally remove certain vaping products from the market.
Rodu emphasizes on directly comparing statistics, which is not an easy task, given that vaping popularity is measured based on frequency and age groups. It is imperative to identify repeated mistakes. It is worth mentioning here that the U.K. doesn’t consider regular vaping as harshly as the U.S.).
American regulators have come under fire recently for their sluggish action in terms of handling vaping products, and rather adopting prohibition tactics, which are more likely to encourage vapers to go back to smoking traditional cigarettes or leave no choice but to go to a black market, which could very well be the root of the illnesses in the first place.
Most of the aforesaid cases have been associated with THC products, which are easily available in the black market. Vaping advocates argue that implementing bans on flavored e-cigarettes would only encourage people to experiment with blending different e-juices, despite having absolutely no knowledge about it.
Similarly, state and federal restraints are all set to force small vape stores to close down, which could probably expand the market for the giant Juul. If that comes to fruition, it could be worrisome, given that the Big Tobacco producer Altria owns a considerable stake in Juul, and is likely to influence the products they make.
Harry Shapiro, the director of DrugWise (a U.K.-based drug-education website) says, “It’s basically reefer madness revisited in the U.S.”
“In the United States, you can go around firing guns, but they don’t want you to vape. Which is to say, certainly, that there’s a real disconnect between what counts as public safety and what people are actually, or should be, scared of,” Shapiro, who is also the author of the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction report added.
Health officials in the U.K. promote e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking traditional, tobacco-based cigarettes, and an effective cessation tool. Nevertheless, they have relatively stricter regulations in place.
By 2030, England aims to be smoke-free and public-health officials and politicians are counting on vaping to help them achieve that. While it remains to be seen whether or not the plan, which was announced this past July, will work out or fail, Shapiro says it is “a date for everyone to shoot for.”
The United Kingdom has been adherent to the European Union’s Tobacco Products Directive, which decides what advertising can be done and monitors the strength in the liquids found in e-cigarettes. While that’s capped off at 20 mg/ml, Juul pods usually have about 59 mg/ml.
“Where we differ most strongly is that we have some excellent politicians and people at Public Health England, or PHE, who are all committed to evidence-based decision-making and legislation,” Dave Cross, a trustee of the New Nicotine Alliance said. Cross, who is a vaper himself, also writes for the blog Planet of the Vapes.
In other words, perspective, and a shared vision for a collective goal is what it is all about. PHE, which is a government agency, has been repeatedly claiming that “vaping is 95 percent less harmful than smoking.” The closest equivalent of PHE in the U.S. is the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).
Senior postdoctoral researcher in tobacco addiction at King’s College London, Deborah Robson says, “The U.K. has a long history of adopting a harm-reduction approach for changing behavior and improving health.”
“We have recognized, based on empirical research for several decades, that nicotine is not the harmful substance in tobacco. It’s inhaling thousands of other toxic gases and particles of tar the come from setting fire to tobacco that harms and kills smokers,” she notes.
People in the United Kingdom do not view nicotine the same way people in the United States do. This month, for instance, which is labeled as “Stoptober” to encourage people to quit smoking, the NHS (National Health Service) is simply urging smokers to switch from traditional cigarettes to electronic cigarettes.
Cross says, “Vaping is working here, as it would around the world if given the chance. Nobody is going to take that away from us.”