To say that e-cigarettes are bad for you without comparing their effects with those of traditional tobacco products can result in encouraging an increasing number of smokers to go back to the old pack of cigarettes. This is the warning that EU Health Commissioner, Stella Kyriakides received from a group of doctors, academics, psychologists and neuroscientists from different European countries.

The road map drawn by the EU in its plan to fight cancer launched last February provides for the reduction of the number of smokers in the Old Continent from 25 to 5 per cent by 2040, so in less than twenty years. A goal which the Commission aims to achieve by clamping down on tobacco products, also on innovative ones, such as e-cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery systems.

However, many people dispute this approach to be the problem. Starting from the contents of the report on e-smoking itself. The document by Scheer, the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks, was published last April upon request of the European Community which in 2021 is getting ready to update the tax regulations on tobacco products and on the limits to be imposed on merchandising sales.

The report evaluates the health risks of e-cigarettes without however comparing them to those of traditional cigarettes. In short, experts are protesting that the principle of risk reduction which is at the base of so many anti-smoking campaigns has been omitted. In many countries this is exactly how the percentage of smokers has been drastically reduced.

“A growing number of scientific bodies recognize a role that alternative nicotine-based products can play in reducing population harm caused by the smoking products, even though all nicotine-based products have some residual risk for the individual user,” point out the experts in the letter to Commissioner Kyriakide.

Recently, WHO also expressed a similar view stating how the “complete replacement” of traditional cigarettes with electronic ones “reduces the exposure of users to a number of toxic and carcinogenic substances”. In short, according to specialists, including Italian doctors such as Fabio Beatrice, Fabio Lugoboni and Riccardo Polosa, the EU is not providing clear information in this regard, to the point that, as a Eurobarometer survey reveals, only 37% of the 12 million Europeans who use e-cigarettes are aware that vaping causes less damage than traditional smoking.

The effect of treating these products as if they were the same, experts warn, is what is making it easier to go from e-cigs to “blondes”, defeating all efforts to free the Old continent of dependence. “Electronic cigarettes are not completely risk-free–  the doctors make clear – but they do help smokers stay away from traditional cigarette. This comes with a net public health benefit as electronic cigarettes are less dangerous.” According to Public Health England, the government research agency sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care, the risk is less by 95 per cent.

Moreover, the group of researchers point out, Great Britain has the lowest number of smokers after Sweden. The figure in Britain is 12%, compared to the European average of 23%. Recently France also has taken up the e-cigarette as an alternative solution to reduce the number of smokers based on the principle of risk reduction. In order to better clarify the concept, a few weeks ago, Emmanuele Jannini, professor of Endocrinology and Sexual Medicine at Rome’s Tor Vergata University made a comparison with the fight against Covid.

“The strategy to prevent Covid should be that of complete immobility, – he explained to Adnkronos Salute – however this is not possible because our lives are made of relations, and so we use a mask, a device in order to reduce the risk”. “This also occurs – he added –with the use of nicotine-based devices or with drinks containing less alcohol or food products with less fat.”

The request of those at the forefront of the fight against smoking is therefore to start working on a second dossier comparing traditional cigarettes with innovative products. Only in this way, the doctors say, “will it be possible to give consumers accurate information” and give all those smokers who do not want to or cannot to get rid of nicotine addiction a chance.