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With the Canadian government looking to implement new e-cig regulations this fall, some health experts like the aforementioned who regard vaping as a harm reduction tool, are concerned that these rules will lead to a surge in smoking. Tyndall for starters, believes that this hostility towards e-cigarettes is derived from the fact that many have a distorted view of the dangers posed by Nicotine.

The unfounded fear surrounding Nicotine

Mark Tyndall
Mark Tyndall, Director, UBC Centre for Disease Control (picture: med.ubc.ca)

Many health problems these days are attributed to smoking, and the reason smokers get hooked on cigarettes is the addictive quality of nicotine. Hence, most people associate nicotine directly with the health problems. However whilst on the topic of addiction, it is important to mention that a study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, found that Nicotine addiction is more psychological than physical.

Contrary to what many fear, Tyndall as do other health experts, believe the substance is one of the safer chemicals found in tobacco cigarettes. “We know the toxins in combustible tobacco that cause disease, and they’re just not present in e-cigarettes. There’s no reason to believe that they are anywhere near as dangerous as combustible tobacco” he added.

We know the toxins in combustible tobacco that cause disease, and they’re just not present in e-cigarettes. There’s no reason to believe that they are anywhere near as dangerous as combustible tobaccoMark Tyndall, Executive Medical Director, BCCDC

The medical director referred to the fact that a lot of studies have been compiled about Nicotine, and while he agrees that youths should not be exposed to the addictive substance, in his opinion the chemical shouldn’t raise more concern than caffeine would. On the other end of the spectrum from those who apprehend Nicotine, we find a study carried out by Dr Ursula Winzer-Serhan, lead researcher at Texas A&M University, who found that Nicotine may protect the brain from ageing.

What if smoking is the main public health threat?

The medical director’s interest in e-cigarettes spurted during his work in HIV prevention, and people dealing with addictions,  stated “Everybody that I follow in our clinics and in our cohort studies are dying from tobacco-related illness, they’re not dying from HIV anymore. And it’s fascinating how we’ve thought of tobacco as just in the background and it’s not really an issue for people with addictions, but it is the number one issue we should be dealing with.

Another step towards over-regulating that could be regretted

The biggest fear harboured by Tyndall is that while we are waiting for definite results from ongoing studies about e-cigarette emissions, there are smokers out there who are being discouraged from switching to vaping, an alternative which is already proven to be significantly safer, concluding It would be crazy for us to be sitting here in 20 years still waiting for the results of a study to come out so we can say “A-ha! They’re not as dangerous!” and meanwhile countless thousands have died from tobacco. If tomorrow, everybody threw away their combustible tobacco and started using e-cigarettes we’d notice almost instantaneous improvements in people’s health, and fairly quickly see improvements in our health care system.”