“I started smoking right from my secondary school days and switched to e-cigarettes in the past eight months. I noticed remarkable differences and wondered why I didn’t switch all this while”. These were the words of Suleiman Abdullahi, a seasoned journalist who admitted that he has been smoking for over 30 years.
Indeed, Suleiman’s testimony underscores the power of the smoke-free products which as Tobacco Harm Reduction advocates posit, are better alternatives for persons who have had difficulty quitting.
It is estimated that there are no fewer than one billion cigarette smokers all over the world with the figure likely to increase. While that may sound worrisome, the fact that there is copious research and other scientific evidence which indicates that it is the smoke from combustible cigarettes, and not nicotine, that causes cancer provides a plausible explanation for a break from combustible cigarettes to smoke-free products.
Since it is the smoke and not the nicotine from cigarettes that causes cancer, one clear way of mitigating the risk for smokers who cannot quit will be for them to switch to smoke-free products which, for the moment, remain the most viable alternative. What then are these smoke-free products?
Smoke-free products are designed to deliver nicotine without producing smoke or ash. Because smoke-free products provide nicotine without burning, they are much better alternatives to cigarettes. Such products include e-cigarettes, nicotine pouches, snus, heated tobacco products and other modern oral products.
According to research by the UK Office for Health Improvements and Disparities (formerly Public Health England), e-cigarettes do 95% less harm than traditional smoking.
Smokers must realize that if they don’t want to quit smoking, which naturally remains the best option for their health, they can choose better alternatives to cigarettes such as smoke-free products which have been scientifically proven to be less harmful.
Indeed, there is copious evidence to show that the toxic and carcinogenic substances found in tobacco smoke, not nicotine, are the primary cause of disease and death.
Fundamentally, tobacco harm reduction research including laboratory studies, surveys, observational studies and even clinical trials, have provided copious evidence to prove that the smoke-free products also referred to as alternative tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, are less harmful and provide better substitutes to adult smokers who have difficulty quitting.
Some of the studies that have been carried out are quantitative analysis of e-liquid vape and tobacco content from heated tobacco products, surveys of vape profile and use pattens and clinical assessment of users at various time points.
For instance, it has been established that vaping has a fraction of the risks associated with smoking, and vaping emits/produces less of the harmful substances linked to cancer, respiratory and CVD, compared to smoking.
There is robust scientific evidence that reveals that smoke-free alternatives to cigarettes can present less risk than continued smoking. Of course, these products are not risk-free and contain nicotine, which is addictive, but they’re demonstrably better than continuing to smoke cigarettes.
Compelling facts and evidence are reinforcing the positive impact these products are having, highlighting the critical role they could play in delivering change for millions of adult smokers—and, ultimately, the public health milestone of a smoke-free future.
Unfortunately, smoke-free products are being muddied by misinformation, especially from people who often compare switching to smoke-free products with quitting cigarettes.
Of course, quitting all products containing nicotine and tobacco is the best choice for any adult smoker. That is not in dispute. However, all too often, the key advantages of smoke-free products go unrecognized—chiefly, that they serve as a better alternative to continued smoking for the nine out of ten adult smokers who, in any given year, don’t quit cigarettes. While smoke-free products deliver nicotine, no burning is involved.
Tellingly, the absence of combustion means the levels of these chemicals can be significantly reduced compared to cigarettes, making smoke-free products a much better alternative.
To make a smoke-free future a reality, adult smokers who don’t quit should have access to the facts and science that challenge and dispel misinformation and outdated ideology to empower them to make informed choices.
The scientifically substantiated products that companies including tobacco companies have developed are making it possible to picture a future in which cigarettes are replaced by less harmful smoke-free alternatives that adult smokers will accept.