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Following a 12-day academic visit to Queen Mary College in London, Dr Roberto Sussman, a Senior Researcher in Physics from the National University of Mexico (UNAM) pointed out that even all the way back in Mexico, “the positive effects of health policies in the UK endorsing e-cigarettes as a substitute for smoking are widely known.”

“I found it very disappointing that even with vaping being embraced by health authorities, the story is completely different when it comes to perception in public and private social areas, especially indoors.”Dr Roberto Sussman, Senior Researcher in Physics, The National University of Mexico (UNAM)

However, he added, his experience in London showed him that despite this, there is still a stigma surrounding vaping. “I found it very disappointing that even with vaping being embraced by health authorities, the story is completely different when it comes to perception in public and private social areas, especially indoors.

“I understand that clouds are inconvenient to many non-smokers, but I still felt that permission to vape (whenever granted) was a gracious concession rather than a recognition of the hard, scientific fact that harms from second hand vapor are close to nil,” said Sussman.

More vaping areas are needed

The researcher found that many people in London still associate vaping with smoking, and that although he understands that second hand vapor may annoy non-vapers, e-cigarette users should not be confined to using  their safer alternatives in smoking rooms. “Disgust with clouds is an inconvenience, not a health threat. So, why are there not far more vaping lounges or areas in pubs and in airports, for example? Or policies that welcome considerate vaping? Would this not be more consistent with declared public health policies?”

“The possibility to eliminate stigma, to be able to socialise comfortably while vaping (rather than being forced outdoors) is essential if a public health policy which encourages harm reduction is to succeed.”Dr Roberto Sussman, Senior Researcher in Physics, The National University of Mexico (UNAM)

Dr. Sussman thinks that the next step is for authorities to work at changing the public’s thwarted perception towards vaping. “The possibility to eliminate stigma, to be able to socialise comfortably while vaping (rather than being forced outdoors) is essential if a public health policy which encourages harm reduction is to succeed. Telling a smoker “your health will improve, and you will likely live 10 more years” is an abstract proposition because harms from smoking usually take decades to materialise.”

“Telling a smoker “you can vape in some comfortable indoor spaces because your vaping poses no risks to bystanders”, is a much better approach which could lead to many more smokers trying e-cigarettes and eventually switching as a result.” he added.

“Telling a smoker “you can vape in some comfortable indoor spaces because your vaping poses no risks to bystanders”, is a much better approach which could lead to many more smokers trying e-cigarettes and eventually switching as a result.” Dr Roberto Sussman, Senior Researcher in Physics, The National University of Mexico (UNAM)

The researcher added that despite the health policies endorsing vaping, he still found many restrictions that cannot “be justified on medical or scientific grounds, and that his impression was that most UK nationals still perceive vaping as a form of smoking. “Also, most people still believe that nicotine is carcinogenic,” he added.

More vaping campaigns are needed

A 2017 APPG report highlighted that the “misinformation” and “mixed messages” circulating about e-cigarettes, whilst urging the government to take action by amongst other things, reviewing vaping regulations.
In line with the above, public health experts have long been arguing that the public is still misinformed about the relative risks of vaping. Last year, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for e-cigarettes (APPG) released a report  highlighting the “misinformation” and “mixed messages” circulating about e-cigarettes, whilst urging the government to take action by amongst other things, reviewing vaping regulations.

In line with Dr. Sussman’s arguments, the parliamentarians referred to the research available in favour of e-cigarettes whilst emphasizing that there is a consensus amongst several health groups such Public Health England (PHE), and Cancer Research UK (CRUK), that vaping products are significantly safer than regular cigarettes. The report added that despite this, there is a widespread impression amongst the public that the devices are as harmful as combustible cigarettes.

“The positive public health message regarding vaping has up to now been failing to get across to the UK’s remaining 7.6 million smokers. The Public Health England campaign was a welcome change and has had an obvious effect, but it needs to be sustained, not just a one off,” said Chairman of the group, Rugby MP Mark Pawsey at the time.

Read Further: NNA

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